Page images

the southern candidate for the presidency. He told them that Judge Douglas was the only man in the whole nation who gave them any hold of the free states; and then he proceeded to show that Mr. Douglas was as sincerely, and quite as wisely, for them, as they were for themselves. The points made in this part of the speech against his old antagonist were very ingenious and very damaging, so far as they related to his standing in Ohio, whatever effect they may have had upon the possible Kentuckians in the audience. After telling them that they must take Douglas under any circumstances or be defeated, and that it was possible, if they did take him, that they might be beaten, he told them what the opposition proposed to do with them in case it should be successful in the approaching presidential contest. The passage is worth quoting, as it is an embodiment of the policy he subsequently pursued when, the opposition having succeeded, he found himself endowed with the responsibilities of office, as well as a prophecy of the result of a collision then conditionally proposed.

"I will tell you, so far as I am authorized to speak for the opposition, what we mean to do with you. We mean to treat you, as near as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson and Madison treated you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to interfere with your institutïon; to abide by all and every compromise of the Constitution, and, in a word, coming back to the original proposition, to treat you, so far as degenerated men (if we have degenerated) may, according to the examples of those noble fathers-Washington, Jefferson and Madison. We mean to remember that you are as good as we; that there is no difference between us other than the difference of circumstances. We mean to recognize and bear in mind always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly. We mean to marry your girls when we have a chance the white ones I mean--and I have the honor to inform you that I once did have a chance in that way.

"I have told you what we mean to do. I want to know, now, when that thing takes place, what you mean to do. I often hear it intimated that you mean to divide the Union whenever a republican or anything like it is elected president of the United States. [A voice-That is so.'] 'That is so,' one of them says; I wonder if he is a Kentuckian?

[A voice-He is a Douglas man.'] Well, then, I want to know what you are going to do with your half of it? Are you going to split the Ohio down through, and push your half off a piece? Or are you going to keep it right alongside of us outrageous fellows? Or are you going to build up a wall some way between your country and ours, by which that movable property of yours can 't come over here any more, to the danger of your losing it? Do you think you can better yourselves on that subject, by leaving us here under no obligation whatever to return those specimens of your movable property that come hither? You have divided the Union because we would not do right with you, as you think, upon that subject; when we cease to be under obligations to do anything for you, how much better off do you think you will be? Will you make war upon us and kill us all? Why, gentlemen, I think you are as gallant and as brave men as live; that you can fight as bravely in a good cause, man for man, as any other people living; that you have shown yourselves capable of this upon various occasions; but man for man, you are not better than we are, and there are not so many of you as there are of us. You will never make much of a hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in numbers than you, I think that you could whip us; if we were equal it would likely be a drawn battle; but being inferior in numbers, you will make nothing by attempting to master us."

It is proper to say of Mr. Lincoln and Judge Douglas that no two men in the nation better apprehended the real nature of the struggle between the North and South than they. Mr. Douglas, so far back as the date of the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise, foresaw the coming conflict, and by that measure attempted to avert it. His bringing forward that measure at a time when the South did not demand it, could have been from no motive other than his wish to provide ground upon which the northern and southern democracy could stand together, in the presidential contest of 1860, when it was his expectation to be their candidate. Slavery was becoming discontented under the conviction that it was about to lose its power. It found itself either legally or practically shut out of the national domain. It is not at all improbable that the Senator knew something of the intrigues of those who were bent on disunion. It was then that he invented "popular sovereignty"—what he was accustomed to call his "great principle”—and there was indeed nothing foolish in the

tenacity with which he clung to it. It was his only ground of hope for election to the presidency. He had no personal responsibility for the Dred Scott decision. It was not for him to say what the rights of slavery were among the people of a territory; but he was willing to take the responsibility of giving slavery and freedom the same rights. There was great plausibility in his view, and he had little difficulty in carrying his party with him. It was a sort of neutral ground— speciously it was catholic ground. His intention was to give slavery a chance to enter territory then free,-territory forever set apart to freedom. If he did not intend to give this chance, his movement was without motive. On this chance, he intended, without doubt, to build up a claim upon southern support; but he had a heavy load to carry, as events proved. Mr. Lincoln was a thorn in his side. If he spoke in Illinois, Mr. Lincoln challenged him to debate, and exposed his fallacies. If he went to Ohio, Mr. Lincoln followed close upon his heels. If he betook himself to a New York publication, Mr. Lincoln took measures practically to meet him there.

Mr. Lincoln's opportunity to meet his antagonist in the press of New York came through an invitation to speak in Brooklyn, at Mr. Beecher's church. This speech, which it was finally concluded should be delivered at the Cooper Institute, in New York, was by many regarded as the best he ever made. It was the last elaborate speech of his life, and was spread broadcast over the country by the press of the city.

Mr. Lincoln arrived in the great metropolis on the 25th of February, 1860. He expected, as has been stated, to speak at Mr. Beecher's church in Brooklyn, and had prepared his address with some reference to the place. On learning that he was expected to speak in New York, he said he must review his speech. He reached the Astor House on Saturday, and spent the whole day in making such modifications of his manuscript as seemed necessary, under the change of circumstances. On Sunday, he attended upon Mr. Beecher's preaching, and seemed to take great satisfaction in the services. When waited upon on Monday, by representative members

of the Republican Club, under whose auspices he was to appear, he was found encased in a new and badly wrinkled suit of black, which had evidently spent too much time in a small valise. He talked freely of the unbecoming dress, and, like a boy, expressed his surprise at finding himself in the great city. On being applied to for slips containing the speech of the evening, he showed that he was not familiar with the habit of eastern speakers of supplying such slips to the press in advance, and even expressed the doubt whether any of the papers would care to publish it entire. During the interview, he referred frequently to Mr. Douglas, and in so kind and cordial a manner that it was impossible to regard him as that gentleman's personal enemy in any sense.*

Being at leisure during the day, he accepted an invitation to ride about the city. Some of the more important streets 'were passed through, and a number of large establishments visited. At one place, he met an old acquaintance from Illinois, whom he addressed with an inquiry as to how he had fared since leaving the West. "I have made a hundred thousand dollars, and lost all," was his reply. Then turning questioner he said: "How is it with you, Mr. Lincoln?" "Oh very well," said he; "I have the cottage at Springfield, and about eight thousand dollars in money. If they make me vice-president with Seward, as some say they will, I hope I shall be able to increase it to twenty thousand; and that is as much as any man ought to want."

In a photographic establishment on Broadway, he met and was introduced to George Bancroft, the historian. The contrast which he presented in his person and manner to this gentleman was certainly not to his advantage; but his bluff, hearty way carried all before it. He informed Mr. Bancroft that he was on his way to Massachusetts where he had a son in college, who, if report were true, already knew much more than his father.

He was to speak at Cooper Institute that night, and having caught a glimpse of the great capital and of its gigantic in*R. C. McCormick, in the New York Evening Post.

terests and affairs, it is not strange that he should have been oppressed with a sense of his own insignificance. It was one of his peculiarities that, while he was the subject of the most exalted aspirations and ambitions, and the ready undertaker of the highest and most difficult tasks, he always bore about with him a sense of his imperfections, and experienced a sort of surprise at every success. Indeed, his triumphs became the subjects of his study. They really puzzled him; and frequent conversations with others betrayed his desire to find the secrets of his own power.

But Mr. Lincoln was not more curious concerning himself, or concerning the new scenes among which he found himself, than the people of New York were concerning him. There was a great and general curiosity to see and hear him; and when he entered the hall he found the platform covered with the republican leaders of the city, and of Brooklyn, and, in his audience, many ladies. The venerable William Cullen Bryant presided, and in introducing the speaker said: "It is a grateful office that I perform, in introducing to you an eminent citizen of the West, hitherto known to you only by reputation." There was nothing in the introduction, however, which pleased Mr. Lincoln so much as Mr. Bryant's statement in the next day's Evening Post, (of which he was the editor) that for the publication of such words of weight and wisdom as those of Mr. Lincoln, the pages of that journal were "indefinitely elastic."

Mr. Lincoln began his address in a low, monotonous tone, but gaining confidence in the respectful stillness, his tones, that had long been keyed to out-of-door efforts, rose in strength and gained in clearness, until every ear heard every word. His style of speech was so fresh, his mode of statement was so simple, his illustrations were so quaint and peculiar, that the audience eagerly drank in every sentence. The backwoods orator had found one of the most appreciative audiences he had ever addressed, and the audience gave abundant testimony that they were listening to the utterances of a master.

The speech which Mr. Lincoln made on this occasion must

« PreviousContinue »