Page images

aspects, to show its humbuggery and falsehoods, and when thus torn to rags, cut into slips, held up to the gaze of the vast crowd, a kind of scorn was visible upon the face of the crowd and upon the lips of the most eloquent speaker.” The editor, in concluding his account, says: “At the conclusion of the speech, every man felt that it was unanswerable—that no human power could overthrow it, or trample it under foot. The long and repeated applause evinced the feelings of the crowd, and gave token of universal assent to Lincoln's whole argument; and every mind present did homage to the man who took captive the heart, and broke like a sun over the understanding."

The account of this speech in the Chicago Press and Tribune was not less enthusiastic in its praise, than the journal just quoted. After stating that, within the limits of a newspaper article, it would be impossible to give an idea of the strength of Mr. Lincoln's argument, and that it was by far the ablest effort of the campaign, he quotes the following passage directly from the speech, as remarkable in its power upon the audience: “My distinguished friend says it is an insult to the emigrants to Kansas and Nebraska to suppose they are not able to govern themselves. We must not slur over an argument of this kind because it happens to tickle the ear. It must be met and answered. I admit that the emigrant to Kansas and Nebraska is competent to govern himself, but (the speaker rising to his full hight,) I deny his right to govern any other person without that person's consent.That touched the very marrow of the matter, and revealed the whole difference between him and Douglas. The crowd understood it. They saw through the iniquity of “popular sovereignty," and the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and the applause which followed showed their appreciation of the clearness and thoroughness with which the speaker had exposed it.

When Mr. Lincoln concluded his speech, Mr. Douglas hastily took the stand, and said that he had been abused, “though in a perfectly courteous manner.” He spoke until the adjournment of the meeting for supper, but touched only


slightly upon the great questions which Mr. Lincoln had handled with so much power. That he felt his effort to be a failure, is evident from subsequent events soon to be recounted. Before closing, he insisted on his right to resume his speech in the evening, but when evening came he did not resume, and did not choose to resume. The speech was never concluded.

The next meeting between the two party champions took place at Peoria, though not by pre-arrangement. Mr. Lincoln followed Mr. Douglas to Peoria, and challenged him there, as he had done at Springfield. At Peoria, Mr. Lincoln's triumph was even more marked than at Springfield, for his antagonist had lost something of his assurance. He was a wounded and weakened man, indeed. He had become conscious that he was not invulnerable. He had been a witness of Mr. Lincoln's power over the people; and it is quite possible that his faith in his own position had been shaken. It was noticed at Peoria that his manner was much modified, and that he betrayed a lack of confidence in himself, not at all usual with him. Here, as at Springfield, Mr. Lincoln occupied more than three hours in the delivery of his speech, and it came down upon Mr. Douglas so crushingly that the doughty debater did not even undertake to reply to it.

It is to be remembered that Mr. Lincoln, in his political speeches, resorted to none of the tricks common among what are called stump speakers. He was thoroughly in earnest and always closely argumentative. If he told stories, it was not to amuse a crowd, but to illustrate a point. The real questions at issue engaged his entire attention, and he never undertook to raise a false issue or to dodge a real one. Indeed, he seemed incapable of the tricks so often resorted to for the discomfiture of an opponent. Fortunately, the Peoria speech was reported, and we have an opportunity of forming an intelligent judgment of its character and its power. One passage will suffice to illustrate both. Mr. Douglas had urged that the people of Illinois had no interest in the question of slavery in the territories—that it concerned only the people of the territories. This was in accordance with his own feeling, when he declared



that he did not care whether slavery was “voted up or voted down" in Kansas. Mr. Lincoln opposed this on the broad ground of humanity and the terms of the declaration of independence; but to bring the matter more directly home, and to show that the people of Illinois had a practical interest in the question of slavery in the territories, he said:

“ By the Constitution, each state has two senators--each has a number of representatives in proportion to the number of its people, and each has a number of presidential electors, equal to the whole number of its representatives and senators together. But in ascertaining the number of the people for the purpose, five slaves are counted as being equal to three whites. The slaves do not vote; they are only counted, and so used as to swell the influence of the white people's votes. The practical effect of this is more aptly shown by a comparison of the states of South Carolina and Maine. South Carolina has six representatives and so has Maine ; South Carolina has eight presidential electors and so has Maine. This is precise equality so far; and of course they are equal in senators, each having two. Thus, in the control of the government, they are equals precisely. But how are they in the number of their white people ? Maine has 581,813, while South Carolina has 274,567. Maine has twice as many as South Carolina, and 32,679 over. Thus each white man in South Carolina is more than the double of any man in Maine. This is all because South Carolina, besides her free people, has 387,984 slaves. The South Carolinian has precisely the same advantage over the white man in every other free state as well as in Maine. He is more than the double of any one of us. The same advantage, but not to the same extent, is held by all the citizens of the slave states over those of the free; and it is an absolute truth, without an exception, that there is no voter in any slave state but who has more legal power in the government than any voter in any free state. There is no instance of exact equality; and the disadvantage is against us the whole chapter through. This principle, in the aggregate, gives the slave states in the present Congress twenty additional representatives—being seven more than the whole majority by which they passed the Nebraska bill.

“ Now all this is manifestly unfair; yet I do not mention it to complain of it, in so far as it is already settled. It is in the Constitution, and I do not for that cause, or any other cause, propose to destroy, or alter, or disregard the Constitution. I stand to it fairly, fully and firmly. But when I am told that I must leave it altogether to other people say whether new partners are to be bred up and brought into the firm, on the same degrading terins against me, I respectfully demur. I insist




[ocr errors]


that whether I shall be a whole man or only the half of one in comparison with others is a question in which I am somewhat concerned; and one which no other man can have a sacred right of deciding for me. If I am wrong in this—if it really be a sacred right of self-government in the man who shall go to Nebraska to decide whether he will be the equal of me or the double of me, then, after he shall have exercised that right, and thereby shall have reduced me to a still smaller fraction of a man than I already am, I should like for some gentleman deeply skilled in the mystery of sacred rights,' to provide himself with a microscope, and peep about and find out if he can what has become of my sacred rights. They will surely be too small for detection by the naked eye.

Finally, I insist that if there is anything that it is the duty of the whole people to never intrust to any hands but their own, that thing is the preservation and perpetuity of their own liberties and institutions. And if they shall think, as I do, that the extension of slavery endangers them more than any or all other causes, how recreant to themselves if they submit the question, and with it, the fate of their country, to a mere handful of men bent only on temporary self-interest!”

Mr. Douglas might well excuse himself from any attempt to answer this argument, or escape from its inevitable logic, for it was unanswerable.

It was naturally the wish of Mr. Lincoln to continue these discussions in other parts of the state. He felt that a revolution of public opinion was in progress—that parties were breaking up, and that he had his opponent at a disadvantage. But Mr. Douglas had had enough for this time. He wished to withdraw his forces before they were destroyed. He had had a heavy skirmish, and been worsted. He shrank from a continuance of the fight. The great and decisive battle was to come.

At the close of the debate, the two combatants held a conference, the result of which has been variously reported. One authority* states that Mr. Douglas sent for Mr. Lincoln, and told him that if he would speak no more during the campaign, he (Douglas) would go home and remain silent during the same period, and that this arrangement was agreed upon and its terms fulfilled. That there was a conference on the subject sought by Mr. Douglas, there is no doubt; and there

* William II. Herndon, Mr. Lincoln's partner.


is no doubt that Mr. Lincoln promised not to challenge him again to debate during the canvass, but abundant evidence exists that Mr. Lincoln did not leave the field at all, but spoke in various parts of the state.

Owing very materially to Mr. Lincoln's efforts, a political revolution swept the state. The old stronghold of the democratic party fell before the onslaughts made upon it, and, for the first time since the democratic party was organized, the legislature of Illinois was in the hands of the opposition. Politics were in a transitional, not to say chaotic state. The opposition was made up of whigs, Americans, and anti-Nebraska democrats. Among the men elected was Mr. Lincoln himself, who had been put in nomination while absent, by his friends in the county. As has already been stated, he resigned before taking his seat. His election was effected without consultation with him, and entirely against his wishes.

The excitement attending the election of this legislature did not die out with the election, for the new body had the responsibility of electing a United States senator. The old whigs elected had not relinquished the hope that, by some means, their party, which had in reality been broken up by the southern whigs in Congress going over to the democrats on the vote for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, would again be united, while the anti-Nebraska democrats declined to go over to the whigs, supposing that, by clinging together, they could force the regular democracy of the state to come upon their ground. Here were two strongly antagonistic interests that were in some way to be harmonized, in order to beat the nominee of the great body of the democrats who still acknowledged the lead of Judge Douglas. The anti-Nebraska democrats refused to go into a nominating caucus with the whigs, and three candidates were placed in the field. Mr. Lincoln was the nominee of the whigs, Lyman Trumbull of the anti-Nebraska democrats, and General James Shields of the democrats of the Douglas school. After a number of undecisive ballots in the legislature, the democrats having dropped their candidate and adopted Governor Joel A. Mat

« PreviousContinue »