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active part in the canvass, but the Democrats carried the State, though only by a plurality vote. We
e now come to the great Senatorial contest of 1858, which established Mr. Lincoln's reputation before the people of the whole conntry, not only as a very able debater and an eloquent orator, but also as a wise politician, wise enough to hold firm to sound principles, and to yield nothing of them, even against the judg. ment of earnest friends.
On the 4th of March, 1857, Mr. Buchanan had taken his seat in the Presidential chair. The struggle between Freedom and Slavery for the possession of Kansas was at its height. A few days after his inauguration, the Supreme Court rendered the Dred Scott decision, which was thought by the friends of Slavery to insure their victory by its holding the Missouri Compromise to be unconstitutional, because the Constitution itself carried Slavery over all the Territories of the United States. In spite of this decision, the friends of Freedom in Kansas maintained their ground. The slaveholders, however, pushed forward their schemes, and in November, 1857, their Constitutional Convention, held at Lecompton, adopted the infamous Lecompton Constitution. The trick by which they submitted to the popular vote only a schedule on the Slavery question, instead of the whole Constitution, compelling every voter, however he voted upon this schedule, to vote for their Constitution, which fixed Slavery upon the State just as surely whether the schedule was adopted or not, will be well remembered, as well as the feeling which so villainous a scheme excited throughout the North. Judge Douglas had sustained the Dred Scott decision, but he could not sustain this attempt to force upon the people of Kansas a Constitution against their will. He declared that he did not care himself whether the people voted the Slavery clause up or down, but he thought they ought to have the chance to vote for or against the Constitution itself.
The Administration had made the measure their own, and this opposition of Douglas at once excited against him' the active hostility of the slaveholders and their friends, with whom he had hitherto acted in concert. The bill was finally passed through Congress on April 30th, 1858, under what is known as the English bill, whereby the Constitution was to be submitted to the votes of the people of Kansas, with the offer of heavy bribes to them in the way of donations of land, etc., if they would accept it; and the people, in spite of the bribes, voted it down, by an immense majority.
Judge Douglas's term was on the eve of expiring, and he came home to Illinois after the adjournment of Congress to attend in person to the political campaign, upon the result of which was to depend his re-election to the Senate.
His course on the Lecompton bill had made an open breach between him and the Administration, and he had rendered such good service to the Republicans in their battle with that monstrous infamy, that there were not wanting many among them who were inclined to think it would be wise not to oppose his re-election.
But the Republicans of Illinois thought otherwise. They knew the man. They knew that on the cardinal principle of the Republican party, opposition to the spread of Slavery into the Territories, he was not with them; for he had declared in the most positive way that he “ did not care whether Slavery was voted down or up.” They believed that in his action on the Lecompton bill, he was actuated fully as much by the certainty that any other action would be followed by his immediate and utter overthrow at home, as from any other considerations. And they therefore determined, in opposition to the views of some influential Republicans at home as well as in other States, to fight the battle through against him, with all the energy that they could bring to the work. And to this end, on the 17th of June, 1858, at their State Convention at Springfield, they nominated Mr. Lincoln as their candidate for the Senate of the United States.
The speech of Mr. Lincoln to the Convention which had nominated him, was the beginning of the campaign. Its opening sentences contained those celebrated words, which have been often quoted both by friends and enemies: "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.” Little idea could he have had then how near the time was when the country should be united upon this point. Still less could he have dreamed through what convulsions it was to pass before it reached that wished-for-position-into what an abyss of madness and crime the advocates of Slavery would plunge in their efforts to “push it forward till it should become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new-North as well as South.” But there seemed to him to be manifest indications of their design thus to push it forward, and he devoted his speech to showing forth the machinery which they had now almost completed, for the attainment of their purpose ; it only needing that the Supreme Court should say that the Constitution carried Slavery over the States, as they had already in the Dred Scott decision declared that it was carried over the Territories. And he closed his speech with a sharp attack upon Douglas, as being a party to this plan to legalize Slavery over the Continent. It was plain from the first that the struggle would take the shape of a personal contest between the two men. Each recognized the other as the embodiment of principles to which he was in deadly hostility. Judge Douglas was the champion of all sympathizers with Slavery at the North, of those who openly advocated it, and still more of those who took the more plausible and dangerous part of not caring whether it
voted down or up." Mr. Lincoln's soul was on fire with love for freedom and for humanity, and with reverence for the Fathers of the Country, and for the principles of freedom for all under the light of which they marched. He felt that the contest was no mere local one, that it was not of any great consequence what man succeeded in the fight, but that it was all-important that the banner of Freedom should be borne with no faltering step, but “full high advanced.” And thus through the whole campaign he sought with all his power to press home to the hearts of the people the principles, the example and the teachings of the men of the Revolution.
The two combatants first met at Chicago, in July.
There was no arrangement then about their speaking against each other, but Judge Douglas having addressed a meeting on the 9th July, it was inevitable that Mr. Lincoln should answer him on the 10th. One week later both spoke in Springfield on the same day, but before different audiences; and one week later Mr. Lincoln addressed a letter to Douglas, challenging him to a series of debates during the campaign.
The challenge was accepted, though not without an attempt to make a little capital out of it, which was quite characteristic. It was also quite characteristic that the terms which Douglas proposed were such as to give him the decided advantage of having four opening and closing speeches to Mr. Lincoln's three; and that Mr. Lincoln, while noticing the inequality, did not hesitate to accept them.
The seven joint debates were held as follows :-at Ottawa on August 21st; at Freeport on August 27th ; at Jonesboro on September 15th; at Charleston on September 18th; at Galesburg on October 7th ; at Quincy on October 13th ; at Alton on October 15th. These seven tournaments raised the greatest excitement throughout the State. They were held in all quarters of the State, from Freeport in the north to Jonesboro in the extreme south. Everywhere the different parties turned out to do honor to their champions. Processions and cavalcades, bands of music and cannonfiring, made every day a day of excitement. But fargreater was the excitement of such oratorical contests between two such skilled debaters, before mixed audiences of friends and foes, to rejoice over every keen thrust at the adversary; to be cast down by each fail