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Lincoln's Challenge of Douglas for a Joint Debate-Douglas' Reply-Lincoln's Rejoinder-Debate at Freeport.
The campaign between Douglas and Lincoln for a seat in the United States Senate, was the most noted in the annals of the history of any of the States; and we have given precedence to the name of Douglas for the reason that at that time he was regarded as the foremost statesman in the land; while the reputation of Lincoln was confined chiefly to his own State. The character of the two men as regards their prominence in the public mind may be better understood by quoting briefly from a speech made by Mr. Lincoln, in Springfield, on the evening of the 28th of July, which is taken from a report printed in the State Register of the following day. Referring to Douglas, he said: "All the anxious politicians of his party have been looking to him as certainly at no very distant
day to be the President of the United States. They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful face, post-offices, landoffices, marshalships, and cabinet appointments, chargeships and foreign missions bursting and spouting out in wonderful exuberance, ready to be laid hold of by their greedy hands. And as they have been gazing upon this attractive picture so long, they cannot, in the little distraction that has taken place in the party, bring themselves to quite give up the charming hope; but with greedier anxiety they rush about him, sustain him, give him marches, triumphal entries and receptions beyond what even in the days of his highest prosperity they could have brought about in his favor. On the contrary, nobody has ever expected me to be President." Although there is some sarcasm mixed with this allusion to Douglas, yet it is evident that Mr. Lincoln felt that his adversary possessed an advantage over him by reason of his National reputation; and it is doubtful if Lincoln himself, or any of his warmest admirers, had the slighest hope that he would ever rise to the exalted position in which Douglas was held in the eyes of his countrymen.
The Democratic party was divided. There was the Buchanan Democracy, and the Douglas Democracy. The Administration of Buchanan had sought to force Kansas into the union of States with a constitution which protected slavery. Douglas had opposed this unjust policy with manly courage, and the issue was carried to Illinois, and on it he made his campaign for re-election to the United States Senate. The office-holders were opposed to him, but the untrammeled masses of his party were almost to a man in favor of his re-election, notwithstanding the State convention had given him only a halfhearted endorsement. Lincoln, on the other hand, had been chosen by a State convention of the Republican party as their candidate for United States Senator, with
the unqualified avowal that he was opposed to the further extension of slavery. At the convention which nominated him for that distinguished trust, which was held in Springfield, that year, Mr. Lincoln, in the course of an address to that body, gave utterance to these memorable words: "If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then 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 cased, 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 permanently 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 the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or, its advocates will put it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South. Have we no tendency to the latter condition?" Mr. Lincoln had evidently been deeply impressed with the National situation upon the question of slavery, and while his party had no well defined theory as to what ought to be done in the premises, or what would be the final outcome of the momentous issue, yet he believed in his own mind that the slavery question could not long continue to agitate the public mind in the form it then presented itself, but that sooner or later a crisis would come which would forever remove the subject from controversy between the people