Page images
PDF
EPUB

what he had previously uttered upon the same points. He closed by reiterating the charge made in his speech of June seventeenth that Mr. Douglas was a party to the conspiracy for deceiving the people with the idea that the settlers of a territory could exclude slavery from their limits if they should choose to do so, and, at the same time, rendering it impossible for them to do so through the standing veto of the Dred Scott decision. The charge was a grave one, but Mr. Douglas had ignored it. Since it was made, he had not alluded to it at all. “On his own tacit admission," said Mr. Lincoln, “I renew the charge.”

CHAPTER XIII.

MR. LINCOLN wanted closer work than Mr. Douglas had given him. He desired to address the same audiences with his antagonist, and to show to those whom he addressed the fallacy of his reasoning and the groundlessness of his charges, Accordingly, on the twenty-fourth of July, he dispatched the following note:

“ Hon. S. A. DOUGLAS—My Dear Sir: Will it be agreeable to you to make an arrangement for you and myself to divide time, and address the same audiences the present canvass? Mr. Judd, who will hand you this, is authorized to receive your answer; and, if agreeable to you, to enter into the terms of such arrangement.

“ Your obedient servant, A. LINCOLN."

To this Mr. Douglas replied, stating that recent events had interposed difficulties in the way of such an arrangement. In connection with the State Central Committee at Springfield, he had made a series of appointments extending over nearly the whole period that remained before the election, and the people of the various localities had been notified of the times and places of the meetings. The candidates for Congress, the legislature and other offices would desire to speak at these meetings, and thus all the time would be occupied. Then he proceeded to give, as a further reason for his refusal, that it was intended to bring out another candidate for United States senator, to divide the democratic vote for the benefit of Mr. Lincoln, and that he (the third candidate) would also claim a chance in the joint debates, so that he said third candidate) and Mr. Lincoln would have the opening and closing speech in every instance. While, therefore, he declined the general invitation, he declared himself ready to make an arrangement for seven joint debates in the congressional districts respectively where they had not already spoken, and at the following places, viz: Freeport, Ottawa, Galesburg, Quincy, Alton, Jonesboro and Charleston. This letter was published in the Chicago Times, and read there by Mr. Lincoln before he received the autograph by mail.

To this letter Mr. Lincoln responded, denying, of course, the foolish charge of intended unfairness in bringing in a third candidate to divide the time to the disadvantage of Mr. Douglas, and agreeing to speak in the seven places mentioned. There is other matter in these letters* which thoroughly discovers the characteristics of the two writers, but it must be left behind.

Mr. Douglas replied to this second letter of Mr. Lincoln, designating the time and places of the debate as they follow:

Ottawa, LaSalle County, August 21st, 1858; Freeport, Stephenson County, August 27th; Jonesboro, Union County, September 15th; Charleston, Coles County, September 18th; Galesburg, Knox County, October 7th; Quincy, Adams County, October 13th; Alton, Madison County, October 15th.

The terms proposed in this letter and accepted in a subsequent note by Mr. Lincoln, were, that at Ottawa, Mr. Douglas should speak an hour, then Mr. Lincoln an hour and a half, Mr. Douglas having the closing speech of half an hour. At the next place, Mr. Lincoln should open and close in the same way, and so on, alternately, to the conclusion of the arrangement.

As about three weeks intervened between the date of this agreement for joint debates and the first appointment, both parties engaged zealously in their independent work. Mr. Lincoln began his canvass at Beardstown, the spot where, twenty-five years before, he had taken his military company for rendezvous before starting out for the Black Hawk war. After making a speech here, he went up the Illinois River to Havana and Bath in Mason County, to Lewistown and Canton in Fulton County, and to Peoria and Henry in Marshall County, making speeches at each place, and attracting immense audiences. Mr. Douglas was equally busy, and equally fortunate in attracting the people to listen to his utterances upon the great questions of the day. At Clinton, in De Witt County, he found it no longer possible to pass in silence the charge of Mr. Lincoln that he had “left a niche in the Nebraska bill to receive the Dred Scott decision,” which declared in effect, that a territorial legislature could not abolish slavery. Mr. Douglas here stated that his self-respect alone prevented him from calling this charge a falsehood. Subsequently, at Beardstown, he broke over his restraints, and called it "an infamous lie.” To this Mr. Lincoln responded on a subsequent occasion as follows:

* Political debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, (Follett, Foster & Co.,) pages 64 and 65.

"I

say to you, gentlemen, that it would be more to the purpose for Judge Douglas to say that he did not repeal the Missouri compromise; that he did not make slavery possible where it was impossible before; that he did not leave a niche in the Nebraska bill for the Dred Scott decision to rest in; that he did not vote down a clause giving the peóple the right to exclude slavery if they wanted to; that he did not refuse to give his individual opinion whether a territorial legislature could exclude slavery; that he did not make a report to the senate in which he said that the rights of the people in this regard were held in abeyance, and could not be immediately exercised; that he did not make a hasty indorsement of the Dred Scott decision over at Springfield; that he does not now indorse that decision; that that decision does not take away from the territorial legislature the power to exclude slavery; and that he did not in the original Nebraska bill so couple the words “state' and territory'together that what the Supreme Court has done in forcing open all the territories for slavery, it may yet do in forcing open all the states;-I say it would be vastly more to the point, for Judge Douglas to say he did not do some of these things, did not forge some of these links of overwhelming testimony, than to go to vociferating about the country that possibly he may be obliged to hint that somebody is a liar."

The first meeting of the series agreed upon was held at Ottawa according to appointment. A concourse of citizens estimated at twelve thousand had assembled. Mr. Douglas had the opening speech, and in this speech he resorted to an expedient for placing Mr. Lincoln on the defensive which was either very weak, or very wicked. He made a charge against Mr. Lincoln which, if he knew it to be false, was foul, and which, if he did not know to be true, was most impolitic. He charged that Mr. Lincoln, on the part of the whigs, and Mr. Trumbull, on the part of the democrats, entered into an arrangement in 1854, for the dissolution of the two parties, and the fusing of both in the republican party, for the purpose of giving Lincoln Shields' place in the Senate, and Trumbull, his (Douglas') own. Furthermore, that the parties met at Springfield in October of that year, and, in convention of their friends, laid down a platform of the principles upon which the new party was constructed. He then proceeded to read what he called “the most important and material resolutions of the abolition platform.” What these resolutions were, will appear in Mr. Lincoln's replies to the questions which Mr. Douglas based upon them. His object in asking these questions was, as he said, in order that when he should “trot him (Lincoln) down” to lower Egypt (southern Illinois) he might put the same questions to him there.

The hearty reception which the audience gave to the principles of this platform as he pronounced them, did not please Mr. Douglas. He wished to see whether they would “bear transplanting from Ottawa to Jonesboro.” “I have a right," said Mr. Douglas, “to an answer, for I quote from the platform of the republican party, made by himself (Lincoln) and others at the time that party was formed, and the bargain made by Mr. Lincoln to dissolve and kill the old whig party, and transfer its members, bound hand and foot, to the abolition party, under the direction of Giddings and Fred Douglass.”

Mr. Douglas went on then to comment on Mr. Lincoln's Springfield speech, which had come to be known as “the house-divided-against-itself speech," and slid, as usual, into

« PreviousContinue »