« PreviousContinue »
All the doors, windows, balconies and porticos were filled with men, women and children, anxious to catch a glimpse of the man whose speeches they had read, and of whom they had heard so much. The Leavenworth Register, in its notice of the occasion, said:-"never did man receive such honors at the hands of our people, and never did our people pay honors to a better man, or one who has been a truer friend of Kansas." Here he made a speech, and the following paragraph, selected from it, will show the state of political feeling at the time, and Mr. Lincoln's relation to it:
"But you democrats are for the Union; and you greatly fear the success of the republicans would destroy the Union. Why? Do the republicans declare against the Union? Nothing like it. Your own statement of it is that if the black republicans elect a president, you 'wont stand it.' You will break up the Union. That will be your act, not ours. To justify it, you must show that our policy gives you just cause for such desperate action. Can you do that? When you attempt it, you will find that our policy is exactly the policy of the men who made the Union-nothing more, nothing less. Do you really think you are justified to break up the government rather than have it administered as it was by Washington? If you do, you are very unreasonable, and more reasonable men cannot and will not submit to you. While you elect presidents, we submit, neither breaking nor attempting to break up the Union. If we shall constitutionally elect a president, it will be our duty to see that you also submit. Old John Brown has been executed for treason against a state. We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed and treason. It could avail him nothing that he night think himself right. So, if we constitutionally elect a president, and, therefore, you undertake to destroy the Union, it will be our duty to deal with you as old John Brown has been dealt with. We shall try to do our duty. We hope and believe that in no section will a majority so act as to render such extreme measures necessary."
In September, Mr. Lincoln paid a visit to Ohio, following Mr. Douglas, and made two speeches, one at Columbus and another at Cincinnati. These were the first occasions on which he had ever had the privilege of speaking to Ohio audiences, and the introductions to these speeches betrayed his diffidence. In Illinois the people knew and understood him.
LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
He had won a reputation there, but, as he traveled eastward, he felt himself away from home. The names of Chase, Corwin and Wade were in his mind-eminent speakers, with whose voices the people of Ohio were familiar-and he felt that it would be difficult for him to establish his position as a political orator when brought into close comparison with them. His style of speech and mode of reasoning he knew to be his own; and he had misgivings touching their reception among those whose ideas of oratory were derived from other models. But these misgivings were groundless. His plainness, clearness, earnestness and thorough comprehension of the merits of his subject secured for him the honest admiration and esteem of all who heard him.
At Columbus, he devoted himself mainly to the discussion of a few points of an elaborate article that had previously appeared in Harper's Magazine, from the pen of Judge Douglas. In this article, the Senator had contrived to spread throughout the country his views touching the relations of slavery to the Constitution. It was the old talk of the senatorial campaign repeated with unimportant variations, though with some new illustrations. It was familiar ground with Mr. Lincoln; and, while his speech was a new one, it would convey but few new ideas to those who had read his speeches of the previous autumn. Mr. Douglas had preceded him at Cincinnati, and had alluded to him there. It was the battle of Illinois repeated upon the soil of Ohio. The contestants were the same-the questions upon which they took issue were the same. Popular sovereignty, the Dred Scott decision, the right and wrong of slavery, negro equality, the nationalization of slavery-these subjects, presented and illustrated in every possible way already, were again made the themes of discussion by these two men; and the people of Ohio gave them abundant audience. One of Mr. Lincoln's most effective points at Cincinnati was made upon the assumption that, being near the Kentucky border, some Kentuckians were present, to whom he addressed himself in an attempt to prove that they ought to nominate Judge Douglas at Charleston, as peculiarly
the southern candidate for the presidency. He told them that Judge Douglas was the only man in the whole nation who gave them any hold of the free states; and then he proceeded to show that Mr. Douglas was as sincerely, and quite as wisely, for them, as they were for themselves. The points made in this part of the speech against his old antagonist were very ingenious and very damaging, so far as they related to his standing in Ohio, whatever effect they may have had upon the possible Kentuckians in the audience. After telling them that they must take Douglas under any circumstances or be defeated, and that it was possible, if they did take him, that they might be beaten, he told them what the opposition proposed to do with them in case it should be successful in the approaching presidential contest. The passage is worth quoting, as it is an embodiment of the policy he subsequently pursued when, the opposition having succeeded, he found himself endowed with the responsibilities of office, as well as a prophecy of the result of a collision then conditionally proposed.
"I will tell you, so far as I am authorized to speak for the opposition, what we mean to do with you. We mean to treat you, as near as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson and Madison treated you. We mean to leave you alone, and in no way to interfere with your institution; to abide by all and every compromise of the Constitution, and, in a word, coming back to the original proposition, to treat you, so far as degenerated men (if we have degenerated) may, according to the examples of those noble fathers-Washington, Jefferson and Madison. We mean to remember that you are as good as we; that there is no difference between us other than the difference of circumstances. We mean to recognize and bear in mind always that you have as good hearts in your bosoms as other people, or as we claim to have, and treat you accordingly. We mean to marry your girls when we have a chance the white ones I mean-and I have the honor to inform you that I once did have a chance in that way.
"I have told you what we mean to do. I want to know, now, when that thing takes place, what you mean to do. I often hear it intimated that you mean to divide the Union whenever a republican or anything like it is elected president of the United States. [A voice-That is so.'] That is so,' one of them says; I wonder if he is a Kentuckian?
[A voice-'He is a Douglas man.' n.'] Well, then, I want to know what you are going to do with your half of it? Are you going to split the Ohio down through, and push your half off a piece? Or are you going to keep it right alongside of us outrageous fellows? Or are you going to build up a wall some way between your country and ours, by which that movable property of yours can 't come over here any more, to the danger of your losing it? Do you think you can better yourselves on that subject, by leaving us here under no obligation whatever to return those specimens of your movable property that come hither? You have divided the Union because we would not do right with you, as you think, upon that subject; when we cease to be under obligations to do anything for you, how much better off do you think you will be? Will you make war upon us and kill us all? Why, gentlemen, I think you are as gallant and as brave men as live; that you can fight as bravely in a good cause, man for man, as any other people living; that you have shown yourselves capable of this upon various occasions; but man for man, you are not better than we are, and there are not so many of you as there are of us. You will never make much of a hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in numbers than you, I think that you could whip us; if we were equal it would likely be a drawn battle; but being inferior in numbers, you will make nothing by attempting to master us.”
It is proper to say of Mr. Lincoln and Judge Douglas that no two men in the nation better apprehended the real nature of the struggle between the North and South than they. Mr. Douglas, so far back as the date of the abrogation of the Missouri Compromise, foresaw the coming conflict, and by that measure attempted to avert it. His bringing forward that measure at a time when the South did not demand it, could have been from no motive other than his wish to provide ground upon which the northern and southern democracy could stand together, in the presidential contest of 1860, when it was his expectation to be their candidate. Slavery was becoming discontented under the conviction that it was about to lose its power. It found itself either legally or practically shut out of the national domain. It is not at all improbable that the Senator knew something of the intrigues of those who were bent on disunion. It was then that he invented "popular sovereignty"-what he was accustomed to call his "great principle"-and there was indeed nothing foolish in the
tenacity with which he clung to it. It was his only ground of hope for election to the presidency. He had no personal responsibility for the Dred Scott decision. It was not for him to say what the rights of slavery were among the people of a territory; but he was willing to take the responsibility of giving slavery and freedom the same rights. There was great plausibility in his view, and he had little difficulty in carrying his party with him. It was a sort of neutral ground— speciously it was catholic ground. His intention was to give slavery a chance to enter territory then free,-territory forever set apart to freedom. If he did not intend to give this chance, his movement was without motive. On this chance, he intended, without doubt, to build up a claim upon southern support; but he had a heavy load to carry, as events proved. Mr. Lincoln was a thorn in his side. If he spoke in Illinois, Mr. Lincoln challenged him to debate, and exposed his fallacies. If he went to Ohio, Mr. Lincoln followed close upon his heels. If he betook himself to a New York publication, Mr. Lincoln took measures practically to meet him there.
Mr. Lincoln's opportunity to meet his antagonist in the press of New York came through an invitation to speak in Brooklyn, at Mr. Beecher's church. This speech, which it was finally concluded should be delivered at the Cooper Institute, in New York, was by many regarded as the best he ever made. It was the last elaborate speech of his life, and was spread broadcast over the country by the press of the city.
Mr. Lincoln arrived in the great metropolis on the 25th of February, 1860. He expected, as has been stated, to speak at Mr. Beecher's church in Brooklyn, and had prepared his address with some reference to the place. On learning that he was expected to speak in New York, he said he must review his speech. He reached the Astor House on Saturday, and spent the whole day in making such modifications of his manuscript as seemed necessary, under the change of circumstances. On Sunday, he attended upon Mr. Beecher's preaching, and seemed to take great satisfaction in the services. When waited upon on Monday, by representative members