« PreviousContinue »
has or has not the power to exclude slavery. But if you succeed in bringing him to it-though he will be compelled to say it possesses no such power-he will instantly take ground that slavery cannot actually exist in the Territory unless the people desire it, and so give it protection by territorial legislation. If this offends the South, he will let it offend them, as at all events he means to hold on to his chances in Illinois.
At a conference of Republican leaders the night before the Freeport debate Lincoln announced his intention of forcing this declaration from Douglas. He was counseled not to do so, since the theory would be popular with the Illinois voters and would probably win the Senatorship for Douglas. Lincoln replied that the South would never accept the man who enunciated the doctrine as President. "I am after larger game," he said; "the battle of 1860 is worth a hundred of this."
Events fulfilled Lincoln's prophecy. The South accused Douglas of violating a bargain with it. Judah P. Benjamin, of Louisiana, said (in a speech in the Senate, May 22, 1860):
We accuse him [Douglas] for this: to wit, that having bargained with us upon a point upon which we were at issue that it should be considered a judicial point; that he would abide by the decision; that he would act under the decision, and consider it a doctrine of the party; that, having said that to us here in the Senate, he went home, and under the stress of a local election his knees gave way; his whole person trembled. His adversary stood upon principle and was beaten; and lo! he is the candidate of a mighty party for the presidency of the United States. The Senator from Illinois faltered. He got the prize for which he faltered; but lo! the grand prize of his ambition to-day slips from his grasp because of his faltering in his former contest, and his success in the canvass for the Senate, purchased for an ignoble prize, has cost him the loss of the presidency of the United States.
In the election of State legislators which followed this debate the Republicans received a total majority of the votes cast, showing that Lincoln was the choice of the people for Senator. However, owing to a Democratic "gerrymander" of the State senatorial districts, a majority of Democrats were returned to the State Sen
ate, and these returned Douglas to the national Senate. Lincoln expected defeat and was thoroughly contented with the results of the contest, the chief of which, to his mind, were the assured defeat of Douglas for the next presidential nomination and the consequent division of the Democratic party into Northern and Southern factions, presaging the election of a Republican President. It was for this division that he had planned, even at the hazard of his own defeat.
Because of the opposition to him by Senator Benjamin and other Southern statesmen Senator Douglas made a speaking tour through the South to rebuild his political fences in that region. In a speech at Memphis, Tenn., in December, 1858, he declared:
"Whenever a Territory has a climate, soil, and production making it the interest of the inhabitants to encourage slave property, they will have a slave code," and where conditions are unfavorable for slavery they will prohibit it. The Almighty, he said, had drawn a line on this continent, on the one side of which the soil must be cultivated by slave labor; on the other by white labor. That line did not run inflexibly along the parallel of 36° 30′, the artificial boundary once established by law [in the Missouri compromise], but meandered through the border States and Territories where the self-interest of the inhabitants formed the natural means for its determination.
In a speech at Chicago, on March 1, 1859, Abraham Lincoln replied to this sentiment as follows:
THE MORAL CLIMATE LINE
Suppose it is true that the Almighty has drawn a line across this continent, on the south side of which part of the people will hold the rest as slaves; that the Almighty ordered this; that it is right, unchangeably right, that men ought there to be held as slaves; that their fellowmen will always have the right to hold them as slaves. I ask you, this once admitted, how can you believe that it is not right for us, or for them coming here, to hold slaves on this other side of the line? Once we come to acknowledge that it is right, that it is the
law of the Eternal Being for slavery to exist on one side of that line, have we any sure ground to object to slaves being held on the other side? Once admit the position that a man rightfully holds another man as property on one side of the line, and you must, when it suits his convenience to come to the other side, admit that he has the same right to hold his property there. Once admit Judge Douglas's proposition, and we must all finally give way. Although we may not bring ourselves to the idea that it is to our interest to have slaves in this Northern country, we shall soon bring ourselves to admit that while we may not want them, if anyone else does, he has the moral right to have them. Step by step, south of the judge's moral climate line in the States, in the Territories everywhere, and then in all the States-it is thus that Judge Douglas would lead us inevitably to the nationalization of slavery. Whether by his doctrine of squatter sovereignity or by the ground taken by him in his recent speech in Memphis and through the South -that wherever the climate makes it the interest of the inhabitants to encourage slave property they will pass a slave code whether it is covertly nationalized by congressional legislation, or by the Dred Scott decision, or by the sophistical and misleading doctrine he has last advanced, the same goal is inevitably reached by the one or the other device. It is only traveling to the same place by different roads.
It is in this direction lies all the danger that now exists to the great Republican cause. I take it that, so far as concerns forcibly establishing slavery in the Territories by congressional legislation, or by virtue of the Dred Scott decision, that day has passed. Our only serious danger is that we shall be led upon this ground of Judge Douglas, on the delusive assumption that it is a good way of whipping our opponents, when in fact it is a way that leads straight to final surrender. The Republican party should not dally with Judge Douglas when it knows where his proposition and his leadership would take us, nor be disposed to listen to it because it was best somewhere else to support somebody occupying his ground. That is no just reason why we ought to go over to Judge Douglas, as we were called upon to do last year. Never forget that we have before us this whole matter of the right or wrong of slavery in this Union, though the immediate question is as to its spreading out into new Territories and States.
1 Horace Greeley in his New York Tribune had advocated that the Republicans assist Douglas to return to the Senate in view of his opposition to the Administration.
"THE IRREPRESSIBLE CONFLICT"
Speech by Senator William H. Seward, at Rochester, N. Y., on "The Irrepressible Conflict"-Reply by Alfred Iverson [Ga.] in the Senate: "The Inevitable Dissolution of the Union.' ""
N the autumn of the same year  in which Lincoln declared, in his "House Divided" speech, that the Union could not continue half free or half slave but must become either wholly free or wholly slave, Senator William H. Seward expressed the same thought in an incisive phrase, "the irrepressible conflict," which pierced to the quick through the calloused
optimism of the North, arousing it to prepare for the coming struggle, and stung the sensitive South into infusing with unmistakable determination its time-worn threats of secession.
The phrase was uttered on October 25, at Rochester, N. Y., in a speech to which it gave title.
THE IRREPRESSIBLE CONFLICT
Fellow citizens: The unmistakable outbreaks of zeal which occur all around me show that you are earnest men-and such a man am I. Let us, therefore, at least for the time, pass by all secondary and collateral questions, whether of a personal or of a general nature, and consider the main subject of the present canvass. The Democratic party, or, to speak more accurately, the party which wears that attractive name, is in possession of the Federal Government. The Republicans propose to dislodge that party and dismiss it from its high trust.
The main subject, then, is whether the Democratic party desires to retain the confidence of the American people. In attempting to prove it unworthy, I think that I am not actuated by prejudices against that party, or by prepossessions in favor of its adversary; for I have learned, by some experience, that virtue and patriotism, vice and selfishness, are found in all parties, and that they differ less in their motives than in the policies they pursue.
Our country is a theater which exhibits in full operation two radically different political systems, the one resting on the basis of servile or slave labor, the other on the basis of voluntary labor of freemen.
The laborers who are enslaved are all negroes, or persons more or less purely of African derivation. But this is only accidental. The principle of the system is that labor in every society, by whomsoever performed, is necessarily unintellectual, groveling, and base; and that the laborer, equally for his own good and for the welfare of the state, ought to be enslaved. The white laboring man, whether native or foreigner, is not enslaved, only because he cannot, as yet, be reduced to bondage.
You need not be told now that the slave system is the older of the two and that once it was universal.
The emancipation of our own ancestors, Caucasians and Europeans as they were, hardly dates beyond a period of five