Page images

The Hon. Sidney Breese, having on the nineteenth ballot obtained a majority of one, was declared nominated, and next day was elected by the Legislature.

In December, 1841, a Democratic state convention had assembled to nominate candidates for state officers, and had nominated the Hon. A. W. Snyder for governor, and John Moore for lieutenant governor. During the canvass Mr. SNYDER died, and the Hon. THOMAS FORD, one of the judges of the Supreme Court, was placed on the ticket in his place. Messrs. Ford and Moore were elected, and entered upon the duties of their offices in January, 1843.

In the spring of 1843 Judge Douglas's health became very much impaired, and he contemplated resigning his office and spending the summer in the Indian country—that country with which, under the title of Kansas and Nebraska, his name has subsequently become so familiar! But the exigencies of the Democratic party required his services again. The state had been redistricted under the new census, the number of representatives in Congress to which Illinois was entitled had been increased to seven, and the district in which he resided was one in which the Democrats had but little hope of success. Several counties had nominated him for the office, but, in consequence of his ill health, and the seeming impossibility on his part to canvass the district, he had declined the use of his

But on the meeting of the counties he was nominated; the persons voted for, besides Mr. Douglas, on the first ballot, were William A. Richardson, A. W. Cavarly, Ex-governor Carlin, and Ex-senator Young. The convention met at Suggsville, in Pike County. Judge Douglas was nominated on the second ballot by a most decided vote. A committee was appointed to wait upon him, and urge his acceptance, as the only hope of carrying the district.

He was, when informed of his nomination, holding court at Knoxville; he was advised, considering the doubtful chances of the election, to retain his judicial office, and resign it only in the event of his election. He rejected this advice, and, having accepted the nomination, as soon as the term was closed he resigned his office as judge.

The Hon. O. H. BROWNING, of Quincy, one of the ablest lawyers in that district, was the opposing candidate. Mr. Browning was attending court at the time, and, as soon as the judge


resigned, they made out a list of appointments for joint discussion, commencing at Charleston (now Brimfield), in Peoria County, on June 23d. The district was a large one. It included the following named counties, with those which have since been formed out of them, viz., Jersey, Green, Macoupin, Calhoun, Pike, Brown, Schuyler, Adams, Marquette, Fulton, and Peoria. The two candidates from that day until the day before election traversed the district together. The election took place in August, and the contest was an excited and animated

one, and the result was that Mr. Douglas was elected by a majority of 445! So great had been the exertions and labors of the candidates, that on election-day both were prostrated with illness from which neither recovered for nearly two months.

As soon as his health permitted, some time in November of the same year, he left Quincy on his way to Washington. Ten years had just elapsed since he had entered the state a poor, friendless, and unknown youth. During those ten years what an eventful life had been his. In November, 1833, he had gone from one town to another on foot, seeking employment that would yield him enough to pay for his board and washing. In November, 1843, he bore upon his person his commission

, as a member of Congress! In the winter of '33–4 he had accepted, as a gracious deed of kindness, the place of teacher to a school of forty pupils, at three dollars per quarter each; now he was the duly commissioned and honored representative in the councils of his country of a hundred thousand of his fellow-citizens. In 1834 he had obtained from the Supreme Court, with their sneer upon his pretensions, a license to practice law; within a few months he had resigned his seat as a colleague of those same judges to accept of a higher and more important trust confided to him by the people of Illinois. During those ten years, how strong must have been the will, and persevering the energy, that enabled him successfully to encounter all the opposition and overcome all the obstacles which met him at every path. From the day of his memorable speech in the court-house at Jacksonville he had been a marked man by friend and foe; that speech drew upon him the attention of all envious rivals in his own party, and aspiring men in the Opposition. It was the stepping-stone to an unbounded and unequaled popularity in his own party, and drew upon him the first shaft of the Opposition. When Mr. Lamborn rose to address that meeting that day, he had not the slightest doubt of “killing Douglas” before he concluded. But Douglas was not “killed;" the very means employed to destroy him he used with unequaled power in strengthening and elevating himself. The work attempted by Lamborn on that occasion was taken up by many during those first ten years of Douglas in Illinois, but the men who engaged in it failed, as have all other men who attempted the task. Where are the men who sought his political destruction in those years? They have been forgotten, or, being remembered, are remembered only because they encountered Douglas and were vanquished by him. It is unnecessary to mention names; it is unnecessary to ask what became of the men who, during those years, sought to destroy him in the estimation of the people; the only answer that need be given to such a question is to point to the tombstones that stand conspicuously upon every political battle-field of those ten eventful years.

Mr. Douglas, after his ten years' absence, visited, on his way to Congress, his friends at Cleveland and his relatives at Canandaigua. He had redeemed his promise—that he would carve out his own successful career. Unaided and alone he had gone forth; he now returned as the chosen representative of the generous people with whom he had taken up his residence. Since he had last seen his relatives, he had, from the condition of a penniless, homeless youth, been admitted to the bar, chosen state's attorney, register of the land office, secretary of state, judge of the Supreme Court, and now a member of Congress. Had he been idle ? had he wasted his talents ? had he misapplied his time? Was there one of the hundreds who, surrounded with all the aids of wealth and family influence, had started in life with him, could show a more brilliant or successful career, or more honorable proofs of ten years' earnest labor?

Since December, 1843, Mr. Douglas has been a representative of Illinois in one or other house of Congress. He took his seat in December, 1843, and again in December, 1845, as a member of the House. In August, 1846, he was again elected to the House ; but at the session of the Legislature commencing December, 1846, he was elected to the United States Senate. In January, 1853, he was again elected to the Senate, and in January, 1859—after the memorable contest of 1858– he was a third time elected for a term of six years. After the first convention which nominated him for Congress, there was no opposition to his nomination, the party taking him up as their candidate by universal consent. So with his election to the United States Senate. After the caucus had nominated him in 1847, he was elected as a matter of course; and in 1853 and in 1859 no opposition in his own party was ever urged against his re-election.

Perhaps no man, not excepting even the great Clay, Webster, and Benton, has taken a more active part in the debates of Congress during the time that he has been a member, than Mr. Douglas. No branch of the public business has occupied his whole time. He has been an untiring business man upon all the great subjects that have been before Congress since 1843. Upon all these questions he has entered largely into the debates, and the attentive reader of the discussions in Congress will find that Mr. Douglas's speeches are all devoted to the accomplishment of practical ends, to be attained by following fixed principles; and that in no instance has he departed from this policy, even when by so doing he could avoid personal hostility or obtain personal favor. His intrepidity as a statesman has marked every step of his public career, and the stronger and more violent the storm directed against him, the stronger and more unyielding has been his determination to work out the great end he had in view.

Another distinguishing mark of Mr. Douglas's career has been that he has NEVER FAILED in any proposition which he has undertaken seriously to have accomplished. He has introduced many measures that he has never pushed to a successful issue; but when the right time arrives for any measure that he deems appropriate and necessary, he never has failed to give to it all his energies, and in such case has never failed in seeing it successful over all opposition.

In reviewing the public history of a man who, like Mr. Douglas, has taken such an important part in the legislation of nearly twenty years, covering a period of agitation and excitement never exceeded in the previous history of the country, it is necessary, in a work like this, to condense narratives, when the whole story should be told, and to give the substance only of speeches, when the entire speeches ought to be read.


Much that is valuable in the history of the country, and much that would be useful in forming a true and just estimate of Mr. Douglas's great abilities as a jurist, a statesman, and an orator, is reluctantly yet necessarily omitted in this volume. In preparing the sketch of his services in Congress, it has been found more convenient, and possibly more advantageous to the reader, to arrange them under subjects, without any strict reference to chronological order; and the reader must remember that the subjects treated of in the following pages are not all, but only a few of the leading measures in which he has taken an active part.



It has already been stated that Mr. Douglas's first speech of V a political character in Illinois, and his first public political triumph, was at a public meeting at Jacksonville, in the spring of 1834, where he encountered the ablest of General Jackson's opponents, and in a county where the influence of the bank had paralyzed the Democracy, had silenced the old hero's champions, and was carrying unopposed all political power to the side of the monopoly. Young, inexperienced, unknown to the people, he vindicated the policy of the old veteran, and turned the tide of popular opinion in his favor. That was not the only speech, nor the only time that he encountered the gallant and eloquent orators of the Whig party in the defense of General Jackson. On the circuit while prosecuting attorney, on the stump as candidate for the Legislature, in the Legislature as a member, before the people as a candidate for Congress, on the stump as a Democratic orator, every where, on all occasions, from 1834 until the expiration of General Jackson's term of office in 1837, Mr. Douglas was selected by his political friends, and recognized by his opponents, as the especial champion of the administration, and of the personal and political character of General Andrew Jackson. It has also been stated that in boyhood, when serving as an apprentice in Vermont, he was found in the workshop, and in all congregations of youths of his own age, and even of a larger growth, the de

« PreviousContinue »