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questioner. But the question seemed to inspire him, and he went on to show what free institutions had done for himself, and to exhibit the evils of slavery to the white man wherever it existed, and asked if it was not natural that he should hate slavery, and agitate against it. “Yes,” said he, “we will speak for freedom and against slavery, as long as the Constitution of our country guarantees free speech, until everywhere on this wide land, the sun shall shine and the rain shall fall and the wind shall blow upon no man who goes forth to unrequited toil.”
From this time to the close of his life, he was almost entirely absorbed by political affairs. He still took charge of important cases in court, and practiced his profession at intervals; but he was regarded as a political man, and had many responsibilities thrown upon him by the new organization. During the summer succeeding the presidential canvass, and after Mr. Buchanan had taken his seat, Mr. Douglas was invited by the grand jury of the United States District Court for Southern Illinois, to deliver a speech at Springfield, when the court was in session. In that speech, the senator showed the progress he had made in his departure from the doctrines of the fathers, by announcing that the framers of the Declaration of Independence, when they asserted that “all men are created equal,” only meant to say that “British subjects on this continent were equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain.” Mr. Lincoln was invited by a large number of citizens to reply to this speech, and did so. After showing in his own quiet and ingenious way the absurdity of this assumption of Judge Douglas, telling his auditors that, as they were preparing to celebrate the Fourth of July, and would read the Declaration, he would like to have them read it in Judge Douglas' way, viz: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all British subjects who were on this continent eighty-one years ago, were created equal to all British subjects born and then residing in Great Britain,”-he said: “And now I appeal to all—to democrats as well as others: are you really willing that the Declaration shall thus be frittered away?-thus left no more, at most, than an interesting memorial of the dead past?-thus shorn of its vitality and its prac tical value, and left without the germ or even the suggestion of the inalienable rights of man in it?” Then Mr. Lincoln added his opinion as to what the authors of the Declaration intended; and it has probably never been stated with a more catholic spirit, or in choicer terms:
“I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men; but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what respects they did consider all men equal-equal in certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of hap piness. This they said and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet that they were about to confer it upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to de clare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all and revered by all ; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and, even though never per. fectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.”
The project of making Kansas a slave state was in full progress. The event which Mr. Lincoln had so distinctly prophesied—the formation of a pro-slavery constitution by unfair means and alien agents-was in full view; and those who were interested in it did their best to prepare the minds of the people for it. Political morality seemed at its lowest ebb. A whole party was bowing to the behests of slavery, and those who were opposed to the institution and the power born of it had become stupefied in the presence of its bold assumptions and rapid advances. People had ceased to be surprised at any of its claims, and any exhibition of its spirit and policy. If Mr. Buchanan had any conscientious scruples, they were easily overborne, and he lent himself to the schemes of the plotters. A pro-slavery legislature was elected mainly by non-residents, at an election in which the free state men, who numbered three-fourths of the entire population, refused to participate, on account of illegality. This legislature, meeting at Lecompton, passed an act providing for the election of a convention to form a state constitution, preparatory to asking an admission into the Union. In the election of this convention, the free state men took no part, on the ground that the legislature which ordered it had no legal authority. About two thousand votes were cast, while the legal voters in the territory numbered more than ten thousand. The Lecompton Convention framed, of course, a pro-slavery constitution. It is not necessary to recount the means by which this constitution was subsequently overthrown, and one prohibiting slavery substituted in its place. It is sufficient for the present purpose to state that upon the promulgation of the constitution formed at Lecompton, Robert J. Walker, then Governor of Kansas, went immediately to Washington to remonstrate against its adoption by Congress, and that before he could reach the capitol it had received the approval of the President.
These facts have place here to give the basis of the political relations between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas; for they were approaching their great struggle. The senatorial term of Mr. Douglas was drawing to a close, and he wished to be indorsed by the people of Illinois, and returned to the Senate. The events of the previous year had shown him that a great political revolution was in progress, and that his seat was actually in danger. He saw what was going on in Kansas, and knew that the iniquities in progress there would be laid at his door. It was he who, in a time of peace, had opened the flood-gates of agitation. It was he who had given to the slave-power what it had not asked for, but could not consistently refuse. It was he who had gratuitously offered the slave-power the privilege of making territory forever set apart to freedom its own, if it could. He had divided his own party in his own state, and was losing his confidence as to his own political future. That he knew just what was coming in Kansas, and knew what the effect would be upon himself, is evident in the speech he made at Springfield, from Mr. Lincoln's reply to which a passage has already been quoted. In this he undertook to shift to the shoulders of the republican party the burden he felt to be pressing upon his own. Speaking of Kansas, he said: “The law under which her delegates are about to be elected is believed to be just and fair in all its objects and provisions. *** If any portion of the inhabitants, acting under the advice of political leaders in distant states, shall choose to absent themselves from the polls, and withhold their votes with the view of leaving the free state democrats in the minority, and thus securing a pro-slavery constitution in opposition to the wishes of a majority of the people living under it, let the responsibility rest on those who, for partisan purposes, will sacrifice the principles they profess to cherish and promote. Upon them and upon the political party for whose benefit and under the direction of whose leaders they act, let the blame be visited of fastening upon the people of a new state institutions repugnant to their feelings and in violation of their wishes.”
In a subsequent passage of this same speech, he amplifies these points, and both passages show that he knew the nature of the constitution that would be framed, knew that the free state men would not vote at all because they believed the movement was an illegal one, and knew that he and his party would be held responsible for the outrage. It is further to be said that, by his words on this occasion, he fully committed himself, in advance, to whatever the Lecompton Convention might do. “The present election law in Kansas is acknowledged to be fair and just,” he says. “Kansas is about to speak for herself,” he declares. By these words alone, he was morally committed to whatever might be the conclusions of the convention. This is to be remembered, for Mr. Douglas soon found that he could not shift the burden of the Kansas iniquity upon the opposition, and that his only hope of a re-election to the senate depended upon his taking issue with the administration on this very case, and becoming the champion of the anti-Lecompton men.
ONE of the most remarkable passages in Mr. Lincoln's history was his contest with Senator Douglas, in 1858, for the seat in the United States Senate which was soon to be vacated by the expiration of the term for which the latter was elected. Frequent allusion has been made to this already; but before proceeding to its description something further should be said of Mr. Douglas himself.
Mr. Douglas was but little more than twenty years of age when, in 1833, he entered Illinois. He was poor-penniless, indeed. The first money he earned in the state was as the clerk of an auction sale. His next essay was in teaching school. He began to practice law during the second year, and at the age of twenty-two was elected Attorney General of the state. He resigned this office in 1835, and was elected a member of the legislature. It was here that he and Abraham Lincoln met for the first time. In 1837, before he was twenty-five years old, he received the democratic nomination for Congress, and was only beaten by a majority of five votes, In 1840, he was appointed secretary of the state of Illinois, and in 1813 he was elected to Congress, and re-elected in 1844 and 1846. Before he took his seat under the last election, he was elected to the United States Senate; and his second term of service in this august body was about expiring at the present point of this history.
The career of Mr. Douglas had been one of almost uninterrupted political success. He was the recognized leader of