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Abraham Lincoln, Vol. I. by John T. Morse

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nominating convention with instructions to vote for one of his own
competitors, Colonel Edward D. Baker, the gallant gentleman and
brilliant orator who fell at Ball's Bluff. The prize was finally carried
off by Colonel John J. Hardin, who afterward died at Buena Vista. By a
change of election periods the next convention was held in 1844, and
this time Lincoln publicly declined to make a contest for the
nomination against Colonel Baker, who accordingly received it and was
elected. It has been said that an agreement was made between Hardin,
Baker, Lincoln, and Judge Logan, whereby each should be allowed one term
in Congress, without competition on the part of any of the others; but
the story does not seem altogether trustworthy, nor wholly corroborated
by the facts. Possibly there may have been a courteous understanding
between them. It has, however, been spoken of as a very reprehensible
bargain, and Lincoln has been zealously defended against the reproach of
having entered into it. Why, if indeed it ever was made, it had this
objectionable complexion is a point in the inscrutable moralities of
politics which is not plain to those uninitiated in these ethical

In the year 1846 Lincoln again renewed his pursuit of the coveted honor,
as Holland very properly puts it. Nothing is more absurd than statements
to the purport that he was "induced to accept" the nomination,
statements which he himself would have heard with honest laughter. Only
three years ago[54] he had frankly written to a friend: "Now, if you
should hear any one say that Lincoln don't want to go to Congress, I
wish you, as a personal friend of mine, would tell him you have reason
to believe he is mistaken. The truth is I would [should] like to go very
much." Now, the opportunity being at hand, he spared no pains to
compass it. In spite of the alleged agreement Hardin made
reconnoissances in the district, which Lincoln met with
counter-manifestations so vigorous that on February 26 Hardin withdrew,
and on May 1 Lincoln was nominated. Against him the Democrats set Peter
Cartwright, the famous itinerant preacher of the Methodists, whose
strenuous and popular eloquence had rung in the ears of every Western
settler. Stalwart, aggressive, possessing all the qualities adapted to
win the good-will of such a constituency, the Apostle of the West was a
dangerous antagonist. But Lincoln had political capacity in a rare
degree. Foresight and insight, activity and the power to organize and to
direct, were his. In this campaign his eye was upon every one;
individuals, newspaper editors, political clubs, got their inspiration
and their guidance from him.[55] Such thoroughness deserved and achieved
an extraordinary success; and at the polls, in August, the district gave
him a majority of 1,511. In the latest presidential campaign it had
given Clay a majority of 914; and two years later it gave Taylor a
majority of 1,501. Sangamon County gave Lincoln a majority of 690, the
largest given to any candidate from 1836 to 1850, inclusive. Moreover,
Lincoln was the only Whig who secured a place in the Illinois

Though elected in the summer of 1846, it was not until December 6, 1847,
that the Thirtieth Congress began its first session. Robert C. Winthrop
was chosen speaker of the House, by 110 votes out of 218. The change in
the political condition was marked; in the previous House the Democrats
had numbered 142 and the Whigs only 75; in this House the Whigs were
116, the Democrats 108. Among the members were John Quincy Adams, Andrew
Johnson, Alexander H. Stephens, Howell Cobb, David Wilmot, Jacob
Collamer, Robert Toombs, with many more scarcely less familiar names.
The Mexican war was drawing towards its close,[56] and most of the
talking in Congress had relation to it. The whole Whig party denounced
it at the time, and the nation has been more than half ashamed of it
ever since. By adroit manoeuvres Polk had forced the fight upon a weak
and reluctant nation, and had made to his own people false statements as
to both the facts and the merits of the quarrel. The rebuke which they
had now administered, by changing the large Democratic majority into a
minority, "deserves," says von Holst, "to be counted among the most
meritorious proofs of the sound and honorable feeling of the American
nation."[57] But while the administration had thus smirched the
inception and the whole character of the war with meanness and dishonor,
the generals and the army were winning abundant glory for the national
arms. Good strategy achieved a series of brilliant victories, and
fortunately for the Whigs General Taylor and General Scott, together
with a large proportion of the most distinguished regimental officers,
were of their party. This aided them essentially in their policy, which
was, to denounce the entering into the war but to vote all necessary
supplies for its vigorous prosecution.

Into this scheme of his party Lincoln entered with hearty concurrence. A
week after the House met he closed a letter to his partner with the
remark: "As you are all so anxious for me to distinguish myself, I have
concluded to do so before long," and what he said humorously he probably
meant seriously. Accordingly he soon afterward[58] introduced a series
of resolutions, which, under the nickname of "The Spot Resolutions,"
attracted some attention. Quoting in his preamble sundry paragraphs of
the President's message of May 11, 1846, to the purport that Mexico had
"invaded _our territory_" and had "shed the blood of our citizens on
_our own soil_" he then requested the President to state "_the spot_"
where these and other alleged occurrences had taken place. His first
"little speech" was on "a post-office question of no general interest;"
and he found himself "about as badly scared and no worse" than when he
spoke in court. So a little later, January 12, 1848, he ventured to call
up his resolutions and to make an elaborate speech upon them.[59] It was
not a very great or remarkable speech, but it was a good one, and not
conceived in the fervid and florid style which defaced his youthful
efforts; he spoke sensibly, clearly, and with precision of thought; he
sought his strength in the facts, and went in straight pursuit of the
truth; his best intellectual qualities were plainly visible. The
resolutions were not acted upon, and doubtless their actual passage had
never been expected; but they were a good shot well placed; and they
were sufficiently noteworthy to save Lincoln from being left among the
herd of the nobodies of the House.

In view of his future career, but for no other reason, a brief paragraph
is worth quoting. He says:--

"Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the
_right_ to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new
one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred
right,--a right which, we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.
Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an
existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such
people, that _can_, may revolutionize, and make their _own_ of so much
of the territory as they inhabit." This doctrine, so comfortably
applied to Texas in 1848, seemed unsuitable for the Confederate States
in 1861. But possibly the point lay in the words, "having the power,"
and "can," for the Texans "had the power" and "could," and the South had
it not and could not; and so Lincoln's practical proviso saved his
theoretical consistency; though he must still have explained how either
Texas or the South could know whether they "had the power," and "could,"
except by trial.

Lincoln's course concerning the war and the administration did not
please his constituents. With most of the Whigs he voted for Ashmun's
amendment, which declared that the war had been "unnecessarily and
unconstitutionally commenced by the President." But soon he heard that
the people in Springfield were offended at a step which might weaken the
administration in time of stress; and even if the President had
transcended the Constitution, they preferred to deny rather than to
admit the fact. When Douglas afterward charged Lincoln with lack of
patriotism, Lincoln replied that he had not chosen to "skulk," and,
feeling obliged to vote, he had voted for "the truth" rather than for "a
lie."[60] He remarked also that he, with the Whigs generally, always
voted for the supply bills. He took and maintained his position with
entire manliness and honesty, and stated his principles with perfect
clearness, neither shading nor abating nor coloring by any conciliatory
or politic phrase. It was a question of conscience, and he met it
point-blank. Many of his critics remained dissatisfied, and it is
believed that his course cost the next Whig candidate in the district
votes which he could not afford to lose. It is true that another paid
this penalty, yet Lincoln himself would have liked well to take his
chance as the candidate. To those "who desire that I should be
reflected," he wrote to Herndon, "I can say, as Mr. Clay said of the
annexation of Texas, that '_personally_ I would not object.' ... If it
should so happen _that nobody else wishes to be elected_, I could not
refuse the people the right of sending me again. But to enter myself as
a competitor of others, or to authorize any one so to enter me, is what
my word and honor forbid." It did so happen that Judge Logan, whose turn
it seemed to be, wished the nomination and received it. He was, however,
defeated, and probably paid the price of Lincoln's scrupulous honesty.

In the canvassing of the spring of 1848 Lincoln was an ardent advocate
for the nomination of General Taylor as the Whig candidate for the
presidency; for he appreciated how much greater was the strength of the
military hero, with all that could be said against him, than was that of
Mr. Clay, whose destiny was so disappointingly non-presidential. When
the nomination went according to his wishes, he entered into the
campaign with as much zeal as his congressional duties would
permit,--indeed, with somewhat an excess of zeal, for he delivered on
the floor of the House an harangue in favor of the general which was
little else than a stump speech, admirably adapted for a backwoods
audience, but grossly out of place where it was spoken. He closed it
with an assault on General Cass, as a military man, which was designed
to be humorous, and has, therefore, been quoted with unfortunate
frequency. So soon as Congress adjourned he was able to seek a more
legitimate arena in New England, whither he went at once and delivered
many speeches, none of which have been preserved.

Lincoln's position upon the slavery question in this Congress was that
of moderate hostility. In the preceding Congress, the Twenty-ninth, the
famous Wilmot Proviso, designed to exclude slavery from any territory
which the United States should acquire from Mexico, had passed the House
and had been killed in the Senate. In the Thirtieth Congress efforts to
the same end were renewed in various forms, always with Lincoln's favor.
He once said that he had voted for the principle of the Wilmot Proviso
"about forty-two times," which, if not an accurate mathematical
computation, was a vivid expression of his stanch adherence to the
doctrine. At the second session Mr. Lincoln voted against a bill to
prohibit the slave trade in the District of Columbia, because he did not
approve its form; and then introduced another bill, which he himself
had drawn. This prohibited the bringing slaves into the District, except
as household servants by government officials who were citizens of slave
States; it also prohibited selling them to be taken away from the
District; children born of slave mothers after January 1, 1850, were to
be subject to temporary apprenticeship and finally to be made free;
owners of slaves might collect from the government their full cash value
as the price of their freedom; fugitive slaves escaping into Washington
and Georgetown were to be returned; finally the measure was to be
submitted to popular vote in the District. This was by no means a
measure of abolitionist coloring, although Lincoln obtained for it the
support of Joshua R. Giddings, who believed it "as good a bill as we
could get at this time," and was "willing to pay for slaves in order to
save them from the Southern market." It recognized the right of property
in slaves, which the Abolitionists denied; also it might conceivably be
practicable, a characteristic which rarely marked the measures of the
Abolitionists, who professed to be pure moralists rather than practical
politicians. From this first move to the latest which he made in this
great business, Lincoln never once broke connection with practicability.
On this occasion he had actually succeeded in obtaining from Mr. Seaton,
editor of the "National Intelligencer" and mayor of Washington, a
promise of support, which gave him a little prospect of success. Later,
however, the Southern Congressmen drew this influential gentleman to
their side, and thereby rendered the passage of the bill impossible; at
the close of the session it lay with the other corpses in that grave
called "the table."

When his term of service in Congress was over Lincoln sought, but failed
to obtain, the position of Commissioner of the General Lands Office. He
was offered the governorship of the newly organized Territory of Oregon;
but this, controlled by the sensible advice of his wife, he fortunately


[48] Lamon, pp. 238-252, tells the story of Lincoln's marriage at great
length, sparing nothing; he liberally sets forth the gossip and the
stories; he quotes the statements of witnesses who knew both parties at
the time, and he gives in full much correspondence. The spirit and the
letter of his account find substantial corroboration in the narrative of
Herndon, pp. 206-231. So much original material and evidence of
acquaintances have been gathered by these two writers, and their own
opportunities of knowing the truth were so good, that one seems not at
liberty to reject the _substantial_ correctness of their version.
Messrs. Nicolay and Hay, vol. i. ch. 11, give a narrative for the most
part in their own language. Their attempt throughout to mitigate all
that is disagreeable is so obvious, not only in substance but in the
turn of every phrase, that it is impossible to accept their chapter as a
picture either free from obscurity or true in color, glad as one might
be to do so. Arnold, pp. 68, 72, and Holland, p. 90, simply mention the
marriage, and other biographers would have done well to imitate this
forbearance; but too much has been said to leave this course now open.

[49] It is fair to say that my view of this "duel" is not that of other
writers. Lamon, p. 260, says that "the scene is one of transcendent
interest." Herndon, p. 260, calls it a "serio-comic affair." Holland,
pp. 87-89, gives a brief, deprecatory account of what he calls
"certainly a boyish affair." Arnold, pp. 69-72, treats it simply enough,
but puts the whole load of the ridicule upon Shields. Nicolay and Hay,
vol. i. ch. 12, deal with it gravely, and in the same way in which, in
the preceding chapter, they deal with the marriage; that is to say, they
eschew the production of original documents, and, by their own gloss,
make a good story for Lincoln and a very bad one for Shields; they speak
lightly of the "ludicrousness" of the affair. To my mind the opinion
which Lincoln himself held is far more correct than that expressed by
any of his biographers.

[50] Serious practice only began with him when he formed his partnership
with Judge Logan in 1841; in 1860 his practice came to an end; in the
interval he was for two years a member of Congress.

[51] A story is told by Lamon, p. 321, which puts Lincoln in a position
absolutely indefensible by any sound reasoning.

[52] For accounts of Lincoln at the bar, as also for many illustrative
and entertaining anecdotes to which the plan of this volume does not
permit space to be given, see Arnold, 55-59, 66, 73, 84-91; Holland, 72,
73, 76-83, 89; Lamon, 223-225, ch. xiii. 311-332; N. and H. i. 167-171,
213-216, ch. xvii. 298-309; Herndon, 182-184, 186, 264-266, 306 n.,
307-309, 312-319, 323-331, ch. xi. 332-360.

[53] Holland, 95; but _per contra_ see Herndon, 271.

[54] March, 1843.

[55] By way of example of his methods, see letter to Herndon, June 22,
1848, Lamon, 299.

[56] The treaty of peace, subject to some amendments, was ratified by
the Senate March 10, 1848, and officially promulgated on July 4.

[57] Von Holst, _Const. Hist. of U.S._ iii. 336. All historians are
pretty well agreed upon the relation of the Polk administration to the
Mexican war. But the story has never been so clearly and admirably
traced by any other as by von Holst in the third volume of his history.

[58] December 22, 1847.

[59] Printed by Lamon, 282. See, also, Herndon, 277.

[60] Herndon, 281; see letters given in full by Lamon, 291, 293, 295 (at
296); N. and H. i. 274



The Ordinance of 1787 established that slavery should never exist in any
part of that vast northwestern territory which had then lately been
ceded by sundry States to the Confederation. This Ordinance could not be
construed otherwise than as an integral part of the transaction of
cession, and was forever unalterable, because it represented in a
certain way a part of the consideration in a contract, and was also in
the nature of a declaration of trust undertaken by the Congress of the
Confederation with the granting States. The article "was agreed to
without opposition;" but almost contemporaneously, in the sessions of
that convention which framed the Constitution, debate waxed hot upon the
topic which was then seen to present grave obstacles to union. It was
true that many of the wisest Southerners of that generation regarded the
institution as a menacing misfortune; they however could not ignore the
fact that it was a "misfortune" of that peculiar kind which was endured
with much complacency by those afflicted by it; and it was equally
certain that the great body of slave-owners would resent any effort to
relieve them of their burden. Hence there were placed in the
Constitution provisions in behalf of slavery which involved an admission
that the institution needed protection, and should receive it. The idea
of protection implied the existence of hostility either of men or of
circumstances, or of both. Thus by the Ordinance and the Constitution,
taken together, there was already indirectly recognized an antagonism
between the institutions, interests, and opinions of the South and those
of the North.

Slowly this feeling of opposition grew. The first definite mark of the
growth was the struggle over the admission of Missouri, in 1820. This
was settled by the famous "Compromise," embodied in the Act of March 6,
1820, whereby the people of the Territory of Missouri were allowed to
frame a state government with no restriction against slavery; but a
clause also enacted that slavery should never be permitted in any part
of the remainder of the public territory lying north of the parallel of
36 deg. 30'. By its efficiency during thirty-four years of constantly
increasing strain this legislation was proved to be a remarkable
political achievement; and as the people saw it perform so long and so
well a service so vital they came to regard it as only less sacred than
the Constitution itself. Even Douglas, who afterward led in repealing
it, declared that it had an "origin akin to the Constitution," and that
it was "canonized in the hearts of the American people as a sacred
thing." Yet during the long quietude which it brought, each section
kept a jealous eye upon the other; and especially was the scrutiny of
the South uneasy, for she saw ever more and more plainly the disturbing
truth that her institution needed protection. Being in derogation of
natural right, it was peculiarly dependent upon artificial sustention;
the South would not express the condition in this language, but acted
upon the idea none the less. It was true that the North was not
aggressive towards slavery, but was observing it with much laxity and
indifference; that the crusading spirit was sleeping soundly, and even
the proselyting temper was feeble. But this state of Northern feeling
could not relieve the South from the harassing consciousness that
slavery needed not only toleration, but positive _protection_ at the
hands of a population whose institutions were naturally antagonistic to
the slave idea. This being the case, she must be alarmed at seeing that
population steadily outstripping her own in numbers and wealth.[61]
Since she could not possibly even hold this disproportion stationary,
her best resource seemed to be to endeavor to keep it practically
harmless by maintaining a balance of power in the government. Thus it
became unwritten law that slave States and free States must be equal in
number, so that the South could not be outvoted in the Senate. This
system was practicable for a while, yet not a very long while; for the
North was filling up that great northwestern region, which was eternally
dedicated to freedom, and full-grown communities could not forever be
kept outside the pale of statehood. On the other hand, apart from any
question of numbers, the South could make no counter-expansion, because
she lay against a foreign country. After a time, however, Texas
opportunely rebelled against Mexico, and then the opportunity for
removing this obstruction was too obvious and too tempting to be lost. A
brief period of so-called independence on the part of Texas was followed
by the annexation of her territory to the United States,[62] with the
proviso that from her great area might in the future be cut off still
four other States. Slavery had been abolished in all Mexican territory,
and Texas had been properly a "free" country; but in becoming a part of
the United States she became also a slave State.

Mexico had declared that annexation of Texas would constitute a _casus
belli_, yet she was wisely laggard in beginning vindictive hostilities
against a power which could so easily whip her, and she probably never
would have done so had the United States rested content with an honest
boundary line. But this President Polk would not do, and by theft and
falsehood he at last fairly drove the Mexicans into a war, in which they
were so excessively beaten that the administration found itself able to
gather more plunder than it had expected. By the treaty of peace the
United States not only extended unjustly the southwestern boundary of
Texas, but also got New Mexico and California. To forward this result,
Polk had asked the House to place $2,000,000 at his disposal. Thereupon,
as an amendment to the bill granting this sum, Wilmot introduced his
famous proviso, prohibiting slavery in any part of the territory to be
acquired. Repeatedly and in various shapes was the substance of this
proviso voted upon, but always it was voted down. Though New Mexico had
come out from under the rule of despised Mexico as "free" country, a
contrary destiny was marked out for it in its American character. A
plausible suggestion was made to extend the sacred line of the Missouri
Compromise westward to the Pacific Ocean; and very little of the new
country lay north of that line. By all these transactions the South
seemed to be scoring many telling points in its game. They were definite
points, which all could see and estimate; yet a price, which was
considerable, though less definite, less easy to see and to estimate,
had in fact been paid for them; for the antagonism of the rich and
teeming North to the Southern institution and to the Southern policy for
protecting it had been spread and intensified to a degree which involved
a menace fully offsetting the Southern territorial gain. One of the
indications of this state of feeling was the organization of the "Free
Soil" party.

Almost simultaneously with this important advancement of the Southern
policy there occurred an event, operative upon the other side, which
certainly no statesman could have foreseen. Gold was discovered in
California, and in a few months a torrent of immigrants poured over the
land. The establishment of an efficient government became a pressing
need. In Congress they debated the matter hotly; the friends of the
Wilmot proviso met in bitter conflict the advocates of the westward
extension of the line of 36 deg. 30'. Neither side could prevail, and amid
intense excitement the Thirtieth Congress expired. For the politicians
this was well enough, but for the Californians organization was such an
instant necessity that they now had to help themselves to it. So they
promptly elected a Constitutional Convention, which assembled on
September 1, 1849, and adjourned on October 13. Though this body held
fifteen delegates who were immigrants from slave States, yet it was
unanimous in presenting a Constitution which prohibited slavery, and
which was at once accepted by a popular vote of 12,066 yeas against 811

Great then was the consternation of the Southern leaders when
Californian delegates appeared immediately upon the assembling of the
Thirty-first Congress, and asked for admission beneath this unlooked-for
"free" charter of statehood. The shock was aggravated by the fact that
New Mexico, actually instigated thereto by the slaveholding President
Taylor himself, was likely to follow close in the Californian
foot-tracks. The admission of Texas had for a moment disturbed the
senatorial equilibrium between North and South, which, however, had
quickly been restored by the admission of Wisconsin. But the South had
nothing to offer to counterbalance California and New Mexico, which were
being suddenly filched from her confident expectation. In this emergency
those extremists in the South who offset the Abolitionists at the North
fell back upon the appalling threat of disunion, which could hardly be
regarded as an idle extravagance of the "hotspurs," since it was
substantially certain that the Senate would never admit California with
her anti-slavery Constitution; and thus a real crisis seemed at hand.
Other questions also were cast into the seething caldron. Texas, whose
boundaries were as uncertain as the ethics of politicians, set up a
claim which included nearly all New Mexico, and so would have settled
the question of slavery for that region at least. Further, the South
called for a Fugitive Slave Law sufficiently stringent to be
serviceable. Also, in encountering the Wilmot proviso, Southern
statesmen had asserted the doctrine, far-reaching and subversive of
established ideas and of enacted laws, that Congress could not
constitutionally interfere with the property-rights of citizens of the
United States in the Territories, and that slaves were property. Amid
such a confused and violent hurly-burly the perplexed body of
order-loving citizens were, with reason, seriously alarmed.

To the great relief of these people and to the equal disgust of the
extremist politicians, Henry Clay, the "great compromiser," was now
announced to appear once more in the role which all felt that he alone
could play. He came with much dramatic effect; an aged and broken man,
he emerged from the retirement in which he seemed to have sought a brief
rest before death should lay him low, and it was with an impressive air
of sadness and of earnestness that he devoted the last remnants of his
failing strength to save a country which he had served so long. His
friends feared that he might not survive even a few months to reach the
end of his patriotic task. On January 29, 1850, he laid before the
Senate his "comprehensive scheme of adjustment." But it came not as oil
upon the angry waters; every one was offended by one or another part of
it, and at once there opened a war of debate which is among the most
noteworthy and momentous in American history. Great men who belonged to
the past and great men who were to belong to the future shared in the
exciting controversies, which were prolonged over a period of more than
half a year. Clay was constantly on his feet, doing battle with a voice
which gained rather than lost force from its pathetic feebleness. "I am
here," he solemnly said, "expecting soon to go hence, and owing no
responsibility but to my own conscience and to God." Jefferson Davis
spoke for the extension westward of the Missouri Compromise line to the
Pacific Ocean, with a proviso positively establishing slavery south of
that line. Calhoun, from the edge of the grave, into which only a few
weeks later he was to fall, once more faced his old adversaries. On
March 4 he sat beside Mason of Virginia, while that gentleman read for
him to a hushed audience the speech which he himself was too weak to
deliver. Three days later Webster uttered that speech which made the
seventh day of March almost as famous in the history of the United
States as the Ides of the same month had been in that of Rome. In the
eyes of the anti-slavery men of New England the fall of Webster was
hardly less momentous than the fall of Caesar had appeared in the
Eternal City. Seward also spoke a noteworthy speech, bringing upon
himself infinite abuse by his bold phrase, _a higher law than the
Constitution_. Salmon P. Chase followed upon the same side, in an
exalted and prophetic strain. In that momentous session every man gave
out what he felt to be his best, while anxious and excited millions
devoured every word which the newspapers reported to them.

Clay had imprudently gathered the several matters of his Compromise into
one bill, which was soon sneeringly nicknamed "the Omnibus Bill." It was
sorely harassed by amendments, and when at last, on July 31, the Omnibus
reached the end of its journey, it contained only one passenger, viz., a
territorial government for Utah. Its trip had apparently ended in utter
failure. But a careful study of individual proclivities showed that not
improbably those measures might be passed one by one which could not be
passed in combination. In this hope, five several bills, being all the
ejected contents of the Omnibus, were brought forward, and each in turn
had the success which had been denied to them together. First: Texas
received $10,000,000, and for this price magnanimously relinquished her
unfounded claim upon New Mexico. Second: California was admitted as a
free State. Third: New Mexico was organized as a Territory, with the
proviso that when she should form a state constitution the slavery
question should be determined by the people, and that during her
territorial existence the question of property in a slave should be left
undisturbed by congressional action, to be determined by the Supreme
Court of the United States. Fourth: A more efficient Fugitive Slave Law
was passed. Fifth: Slave trading in the District of Columbia was
abolished. Such were the terms of an arrangement in which every man saw
so much which he himself disliked that he felt sure that others must be
satisfied. Each plumed himself on his liberality in his concessions
nobly made in behalf of public harmony. "The broad basis," says von
Holst, "on which the compromise of 1850 rested, was the conviction of
the great majority of the people, both North and South, that it was
fair, reasonable, and patriotic to come to a friendly understanding."

Thus in the midsummer of 1850 did the nation, with intense relief, see
the imminent disaster of civil discord averted,--or was it only
postponed? It was ominous that no men who were deeply in earnest in
public affairs were sincerely satisfied. The South saw no gain which
offset the destruction of the balance of power by the admission of
California. Thinking men at the North were alarmed at the recognition of
the principle of non-intervention by Congress concerning slavery in the
Territories, a principle which soon, under the seductive title of
"popular sovereignty" in the Territories, threatened even that partial
restriction heretofore given by the Missouri Compromise. Neither party
felt sufficiently secure of the strength of its legal position to be
altogether pleased at seeing the doctrine of treating the slave in the
Territories as "property" cast into the lottery of the Supreme Court.
Lincoln recognized the futility of this whole arrangement, and said
truly that the slavery question could "never be successfully
compromised." Yet he accepted the situation, with the purpose of making
of it the best that was possible. The mass of the people, less
far-sighted, were highly gratified at the passing of the great danger;
refused to recognize that a more temporary compromise was never patched
up to serve a turn; and applauded it so zealously that in preparing for
the presidential campaign of 1852 each party felt compelled to declare
emphatically--what all wise politicians knew to be false--the "finality"
of the great Compromise of 1850. Never, never more was there to be a
revival of the slavery agitation! Yet, at the same time, it was
instinctively felt that the concord would cease at once if the nation
should not give to the South a Democratic President! In this campaign
Lincoln made a few speeches in Illinois in favor of Scott; but Herndon
says that they were not very satisfactory efforts. Franklin Pierce was
chosen, and slavery could have had no better man.

This doctrine of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the
Territories lay as the seed of mortal disease imbedded in the vitals of
the great Compromise even at the hour of its birth. All the howlings of
the political medicine-men in the halls of Congress, and in the wigwams
where the party platforms were manufactured, could not defer the
inevitable dissolution. The rapid peopling of the Pacific coast already
made it imperative to provide some sort of governmental organization for
the sparsely inhabited regions lying between these new lands and the
fringe of population near the Mississippi. Accordingly bills were
introduced to establish as a Territory the region which was afterward
divided between Kansas and Nebraska; but at two successive sessions they
failed to pass, more, as it seemed, from lack of interest than from any
open hostility. In the course of debate it was explained, and not
contradicted, that slavery was not mentioned in the bills because the
Missouri Compromise controlled that matter. Yet it was well known that
the Missouri Compromise was no longer a sure barrier; for one wing of
the pro-slavery party asserted that it was unconstitutional on the
ground that slaves, being property, could not be touched in the
Territories by congressional enactments; while another wing of the party
preferred the plausible cry of "popular sovereignty," than which no
words could ring truer in American ears; and no one doubted that, in
order to give that sovereignty full sway, they would at any convenient
moment vote to repeal even the "sacred" Compromise. It could not be
denied that this was the better course, if it were practicable; and
accordingly, January 16, 1854, Senator Dixon of Kentucky offered an
amendment to the pending Nebraska bill, which substantially embodied the
repeal. In the Senate Douglas was chairman of the Committee on
Territories, and was induced to cooeperate.[63] January 23, 1854, he
introduced his famous "Kansas-Nebraska bill," establishing the two
Territories and declaring the Missouri Compromise "inoperative" therein.
A later amendment declared the Compromise to be "inconsistent with the
principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and
Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850," and therefore
"inoperative and void; it being the true intent and meaning of this Act
not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it
therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and
regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to
the Constitution." After a long and hard fight the bill was passed with
this clause in it, which Benton well stigmatized as a "stump speech
injected into the belly of the bill." The insertion of the word State
was of momentous significance.

This repeal set the anti-slavery party all ablaze. Among the rest
Lincoln was fired with strenuous indignation, and roused from the
condition of apparent indifference to public affairs in which he had
rested since the close of his term in Congress. Douglas, coming home in
the autumn, was so disagreeably received by an angry audience in Chicago
that he felt it imperative to rehabilitate his stricken popularity. This
difficult task he essayed at the great gathering of the State Fair in
October. But Lincoln was put forward to answer him, and was brilliantly
successful in doing so, if the highly colored account of Mr. Herndon may
be trusted. Immediately after Lincoln's close, Owen Lovejoy, the
Abolitionist leader, announced "a meeting in the same place that evening
of all the friends of freedom." The scheme was to induce Lincoln to
address them, and thus publicly to commit him as of their faith. But the
astute Herndon, though himself an Abolitionist, felt that for Lincoln
personally this was by no means desirable. So he hastened to Lincoln and
strenuously said: "Go home at once! Take Bob with you, and drive
somewhere into the country, and stay till this thing is over;" and
Lincoln did take Bob and drove away to Tazewell Court House "on
business." Herndon congratulates himself upon having "saved Lincoln,"
since either joining, or refusing to join, the Abolitionists at that
time would have been attended with "great danger." Lincoln had upon his
own part a wise instinct and a strong purpose to keep hard by Douglas
and to close with him as often as opportunity offered. Soon afterward
the two encountered again, and on this occasion it is narrated that
Lincoln gave Douglas so much trouble that Douglas cried for a truce,
proposing that neither of them should make any more speeches that
autumn, to which Lincoln good-naturedly assented.

During this winter Lincoln was elected to the state legislature, but
contrary to his own wish. For he designed to be a candidate for the
United States Senate, and there might be a question as to his
eligibility if he remained a member of the electing body. Accordingly he
resigned his seat, which, to his surprise and chagrin, was immediately
filled by a Democrat; for there was a reaction in Sangamon County. On
February 8, 1855, the legislature began voting to elect a senator. The
"Douglas Democrats" wished to reelect Shields, the present incumbent.
The first ballot stood, Lincoln, 45, Shields, 41, Lyman Trumbull, 5,
scattering, 5 (or, according to other authority, 8). After several
ballots Shields was thrown over in favor of a more "practicable"
candidate, Governor Matteson, a "quasi-independent," who, upon the ninth
ballot, showed a strength of 47, while Trumbull had 35, Lincoln had run
down to 15, and "scattering" caught 1. Lincoln's weakness lay in the
fact that the Abolitionists had too loudly praised him and publicly
counted him as one of themselves. For this reason five Democrats,
disgusted with Douglas for his attack on the Missouri Compromise, but
equally bitter against Abolitionism, stubbornly refused ever to vote for
a Whig, above all a Whig smirched by Abolitionist applause. So it seemed
that Owen Lovejoy and his friends had incumbered Lincoln with a fatal
handicap. The situation was this: Lincoln could count upon his fifteen
adherents to the extremity; but the five anti-Douglas Democrats were
equally stanch against him, so that his chance was evidently gone.
Trumbull was a Democrat, but he was opposed to the policy of Douglas's
Kansas-Nebraska bill; his following was not altogether trustworthy, and
a trifling defection from it seemed likely to occur and to make out
Matteson's majority. Lincoln pondered briefly; then, subjecting all else
to the great principle of "anti-Nebraska," he urged his friends to
transfer their votes to Trumbull. With grumbling and reluctance they did
so, and by this aid, on the tenth ballot, Trumbull was elected. In a
letter to Washburne, Lincoln wrote: "I think you would have done the
same under the circumstances, though Judge Davis, who came down this
morning, declares he never would have consented to the 47 men being
controlled by the 5. I regret my defeat moderately, but am not nervous
about it." If that was true which was afterwards so frequently
reiterated by Douglas during the campaign of 1858, that a bargain had
been struck between Lincoln and Trumbull, whereby the former was to
succeed Shields and the latter was to succeed Douglas at the election
two years later, then Lincoln certainly displayed on this occasion a
"generosity" which deserves more than the very moderate praise which has
been given it, of being "above the range of the mere politician's

An immediate effect of this repealing legislation of 1854 was to cast
Kansas into the arena as booty to be won in fight between anti-slavery
and pro-slavery. For this competition the North had the advantage that
its population outnumbered that of the South in the ratio of three to
two, and emigration was in accord with the habits of the people. Against
this the South offset proximity, of which the peculiar usefulness soon
became apparent. Then was quickly under way a fair fight, in a certain
sense, but most unfairly fought. Each side contended after its fashion;
Northern anti-slavery merchants subscribed money to pay the expenses of
free-state immigrants. "Border ruffians" and members of "Blue Lodges"
and of kindred fraternities came across the border from Missouri to
take a hand in every politico-belligerent crisis. The parties were
not unequally matched; by temperament the free-state men were inclined
to orderly and legitimate ways, yet they were willing and able to fight
fire with fire. On the other hand, the slave-state men had a native
preference for the bowie-knife and the shot-gun, yet showed a kind of
respect for the ballot-box by insisting that it should be stuffed with
votes on their side. Thus for a long while was waged a dubious, savage,
and peculiar warfare. Imprisonments and rescues, beatings, shootings,
plunderings, burnings, sieges, and lootings of towns were interspersed
with elections of civil officers, with legislative enactments in
ordinary form, with trials, suits at law, legal arguments, and decisions
of judges. It is impossible here to sketch in detail this strange
phantasmagory of arson, bloodshed, politics, and law.

[Illustration: Lyman Trumbull]

Meantime other occurrences demand mention. In May, 1854, the seizure in
Boston of Anthony Burns, as an escaped slave, caused a riot in which the
court-house was attacked by a mob, one of the assailants was killed, and
the militia were called out. Other like seizures elsewhere aroused the
indignation of people who, whatever were their abstract theories as to
the law, revolted at the actual spectacle of a man dragged back from
freedom into slavery. May 22, 1856, Preston S. Brooks strode suddenly
upon Charles Sumner, seated and unarmed at his desk in the
senate-chamber, and beat him savagely over the head with a cane,
inflicting very serious injuries. Had it been a fair fight, or had the
South repudiated the act, the North might have made little of it, for
Sumner was too advanced in his views to be politically popular. But,
although the onslaught was even more offensive for its cowardice than
for its brutality, nevertheless the South overwhelmed Brooks with
laudation, and by so doing made thousands upon thousands of Republican
votes at the North. The deed, the enthusiastic greeting, and the angry
resentment marked the alarming height to which the excitement had risen.

The presidential campaign of the following summer, 1856, showed a
striking disintegration and re-formation of political groups. Nominally
there were four parties in the field: Democrats, Whigs, Native Americans
or Know-Nothings, and Republicans. The Know-Nothings had lately won some
state elections, but were of little account as a national organization,
for they stood upon an issue hopelessly insignificant in comparison with
slavery. Already many had gone over to the Republican camp; those who
remained nominated as their candidates Millard Fillmore and Andrew J.
Donelson. The Whigs were the feeble remnant of a really dead party, held
together by affection for the old name; too few to do anything by
themselves, they took by adoption the Know-Nothing candidates. The
Republican party had been born only in 1854. Its members, differing on
other matters, united upon the one doctrine, which they accepted as a
test: opposition to the extension of slavery. They nominated John C.
Fremont and William L. Dayton, and made a platform whereby they declared
it to be "both the right and the duty of Congress to prohibit in the
Territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery;" by
which vehement and abusive language they excited the bitter resentment
of the Southern Democracy. In this convention 110 votes were cast for
Lincoln for the second place on the ticket. Lamon tells the little story
that when this was told to Lincoln he replied that he could not have
been the person designated, who was, doubtless, "the great Lincoln from
Massachusetts."[65] In the Democratic party there were two factions. The
favorite candidate of the South was Franklin Pierce, for reelection,
with Stephen A. Douglas as a substitute or second choice; the North more
generally preferred James Buchanan, who was understood to be displeased
with the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The struggle was sharp, but
was won by the friends of Buchanan, with whom John C. Breckenridge was
coupled. The campaign was eager, for the Republicans soon developed a
strength beyond what had been expected and which put the Democrats to
their best exertions. The result was

| Popular vote | Electoral vote
Democrats. | 1,838,169 | 174
Republicans. | 1,341,264 | 114
Know-Nothings and Whigs. | 874,534 | 8

Thus James Buchanan became President of the United States, March 4,
1857,--stigmatized somewhat too severely as "a Northern man with
Southern principles;" in fact an honest man and of good abilities, who,
in ordinary times, would have left a fair reputation as a statesman of
the second rank; but a man hopelessly unfit alike in character and in
mind either to comprehend the present emergency or to rise to its
demands.[66] Yet, while the Democrats triumphed, the Republicans enjoyed
the presage of the future; they had polled a total number of votes which
surprised every one; on the other hand, the Democrats had lost ten
States[67] which they had carried in 1852 and had gained only two
others,[68] showing a net loss of eight States; and their electoral
votes had dwindled from 254 to 174.

On the day following Buchanan's inauguration that occurred which had
been foreshadowed with ill-advised plainness in his inaugural address.
In the famous case of Dred Scott,[69] the Supreme Court of the United
States established as law the doctrine lately advanced by the Southern
Democrats, that a slave was "property," and that his owner was entitled
to be protected in the possession of him, as such, in the Territories.
This necessarily demolished the rival theory of "popular sovereignty,"
which the Douglas Democrats had adopted, not without shrewdness, as
being far better suited to the Northern mind. For clearly the people
enjoyed no sovereignty where they had no option. Consequently in the
Territories there was no longer a slavery question. The indignation of
anti-slavery men of all shades of opinion was intense, and was
unfortunately justifiable. For wholly apart from the controversy as to
whether the law was better expounded by the chief justice or by Judge
Curtis in his dissenting opinion, there remained a main fact, undeniable
and inexcusable, to wit: that the court, having decided that the lower
court had no jurisdiction, and being therefore itself unable to remand
the cause for a new trial, had then outstepped its own proper function
and outraged legal propriety by determining the questions raised by the
rest of the record,--questions which no longer had any real standing
before this tribunal. This course was well known to have been pursued
with the purpose on the part of the majority of the judges to settle by
judicial authority, and by a _dictum_ conspicuously _obiter_, that great
slavery question with which Congress had grappled in vain. It was a
terrible blunder, for the people were only incensed by a volunteered and
unauthorized interference. Moreover, the reasoning of Chief Justice
Taney was such that the Republicans began anxiously to inquire why it
was not as applicable to States as to Territories, and why it must not
be extended to States when occasion should arrive; and in this
connection it seemed now apparent why "States" had been named in the
bill which repealed the Missouri Compromise.[70] In spite of this menace
the struggle in Kansas was not slackened. Time had been counting heavily
in favor of the North. Her multitudinous population ceaselessly fed the
stream of immigrants, and they were stubborn fellows who came to stay,
and therefore were sure to wear out the persistence of the
boot-and-saddle men from over the Missouri border. Accordingly, in 1857,
the free-state men so vastly outnumbered the slavery contingent, that
even pro-slavery men had to acknowledge it. Then the slavery party made
its last desperate effort. Toward the close of that year the Lecompton
Constitution was framed by a convention chosen at an election in which
the free-state men, perhaps unwisely, had refused to take part. When
this pro-slavery instrument was offered to the people, they were not
allowed to vote simply Yea or Nay, but only "for the Constitution with
slavery," or "for the Constitution with no slavery." Again the
free-state men refrained from voting, and on December 21, 6,143 ballots
were declared to have been cast "for the Constitution with slavery," and
589 "for the Constitution with no slavery." Much more than one third of
the 6,143 were proved to be fraudulent, but the residue far exceeded the
requisite majority. January 4, 1858, state officers were to be chosen,
and now the free-state men decided to make an irregular opportunity to
vote, in their turn, simply for or against the Lecompton Constitution.
This time the pro-slavery men, considering the matter already lawfully
settled, refused to vote, and the result was that this polling showed
10,226 against the Constitution, 138 for the Constitution with slavery,
24 for the Constitution without slavery. It is an instance of Lincoln's
political foresight that nearly two years and a half before this
condition of affairs came about he had written: "If Kansas fairly votes
herself a slave State, she must be admitted, or the Union must be
dissolved. But how if she votes herself a slave State unfairly?... Must
she still be admitted, or the Union be dissolved? That will be the phase
of the question when it first becomes a practical one."[71]

The struggle was now transferred to Washington. President Buchanan had
solemnly pledged himself to accept the result of the popular vote. Now
he was confronted by two popular votes, of which the one made somewhat
the better technical and formal showing, and the other undeniably
expressed the true will of a large majority of lawful voters. He
selected the former, and advised Congress to admit Kansas under the
Lecompton Constitution with slavery. But Douglas took the other side.
The position of Douglas in the nation and in the Democratic party
deserves brief consideration, for in a way it was the cause of Lincoln's
nomination as the Republican candidate for the presidency in 1860. From
1852 to 1860 Douglas was the most noteworthy man in public life in the
country. Webster, Clay, and Calhoun had passed away. Seward, Chase, and
Sumner, still in the earlier stages of their brilliant careers, were
organizing the great party of the future. This interval of eight years
belonged to Douglas more than to any other one man. He had been a
candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1852 and
again in 1856; and had failed to secure it in part by reason of that
unwritten rule whereby the leading statesmen are so often passed over,
in order to confer the great prize upon insignificant and therefore
presumably submissive men. Douglas was not of this type; he had high
spirit, was ambitious, masterful, and self-confident; he was also an
aggressive, brilliant, and tireless fighter in a political campaign, an
orator combining something of the impressiveness of Webster with the
readiness and roughness of the stump speaker. He had a thorough
familiarity with all the politics, both the greater and the smaller, of
the time; he was shrewd and adroit as a politician, and he had as good a
right as any man then prominent in public life to the more dignified
title of statesman. He had the art of popularity, and upon sufficient
occasion could be supple and accommodating even in the gravest matters
of principle. He had always been a Democrat. He now regarded himself as
properly the leader of the Democratic party; and of course he still
aimed at the high office which he had twice missed.[72] With this object
in view, he had gone very far to retain his hold upon the South. He told
Southerners that by his happy theory of "popular sovereignty" he had
educated the public mind, and accomplished the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise. When the Dred Scott decision took the life out of his
"popular sovereignty," he showed his wonted readiness in adapting
himself to the situation. To the triumphant South he graciously admitted
the finality of a decision which sustained the most extreme Southern
doctrine. To the perturbed and indignant North he said cheeringly that
the decision was of no practical consequence whatsoever! For every one
knew that slavery could not exist in any community without the aid of
friendly legislation; and if any anti-slavery community should by its
anti-slavery legislature withhold this essential friendly legislation,
then slavery in that State might be lawful but would be impossible. So,
he said, there is still in fact "popular sovereignty."[73] When the
pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution came up for consideration Douglas
decided not to rest content with the form of popular approval, but to
stand out for the substance. He quarreled with Buchanan, and in an angry
interview they exchanged threats and defiance. Douglas felt himself the
greater man of the two in the party, and audaciously indicated something
like contempt for the rival who was not leader but only President.
Conscience, if one may be allowed gravely to speak of the conscience of
a professional politician, and policy were in comfortable unison in
commending this choice to Douglas. For his term as senator was to expire
in 1858, and reelection was not only in itself desirable, but seemed
essential to securing the presidency in 1860. Heretofore Illinois had
been a Democratic State; the southern part, peopled by immigrants from
neighboring slave States, was largely pro-slavery; but the northern
part, containing the rapidly growing city of Chicago, had been filled
from the East, and was inclined to sympathize with the rest of the
North. Such being the situation, an avowal of Democratic principles,
coupled with the repudiation of the Lecompton fraud, seemed the shrewd
and safe course in view of Douglas's political surroundings, also the
consistent, or may we say honest, course in view of his antecedent
position. If, in thus retaining his hold on Illinois, he gave to the
Southern Democracy an offense which could never be forgotten or
forgiven, this misfortune was due to the impracticable situation and not
to any lack of skillful strategy on his part. In spite of him the bill
passed the Senate, but in the House twenty-two Northern Democrats went
over to the opposition, and carried a substitute measure, which
established that the Lecompton Constitution must again be submitted to
popular vote. Though this was done by the body of which Douglas was not
a member, yet every one felt that it was in fact his triumph over the
administration. A Committee of Conference then brought in the "English
bill." Under this the Kansans were to vote, August 3, 1858, either to
accept the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution, with the _douceur_ of a
land grant, or to reject it. If they accepted it, the State was to be
admitted at once; if they rejected it, they were not to be admitted
until the population should reach the number which was required for
electing a member to the House of Representatives. At present the
population was far short of this number, and therefore rejection
involved a long delay in acquiring statehood. Douglas very justly
assailed the unfairness of a proposal by which an anti-slavery vote was
thus doubly and very severely handicapped; but the bill was passed by
both Houses of Congress and was signed by the President. The Kansans,
however, by an enormous majority,[74] rejected the bribes of land and
statehood in connection with slavery. For his action concerning the
Lecompton Constitution and the "English bill" Douglas afterward took
much credit to himself.

Such was the stage of advancement of the slavery conflict in the
country, and such the position of Douglas in national and in state
politics, when there took place that great campaign in Illinois which
made him again senator in 1858, and made Lincoln President in 1860.


[61] For a striking comparison of the condition of the South with that
of the North in 1850, see von Holst's _Const. Hist. of U.S._ v. 567-586.

[62] December, 1845.

[63] For a description of Douglas's state of mind, see N. and H. i.
345-351, quoting original authorities.

[64] N. and H. i. 388.

[65] Thus when John Adams first landed in Europe, and was asked whether
he was "the great Mr. Adams," he said: No, the great Mr. Adams was his
cousin, Samuel Adams of Boston.

[66] For a fair and discriminating estimate of Buchanan, see Blaine,
_Twenty Years in Congress_, vol. i. ch. x., especially pp. 239-241.

[67] Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Ohio,
Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, all for Fremont; Maryland for Fillmore.

[68] Tennessee and Kentucky.

[69] Dred Scott, plff. in error, _vs._ Sandford, Sup. Ct. of U.S. Dec.
Term, 1856, 19 Howard, 393. After the conclusion of this case Scott was
given his freedom by his master.

[70] _Ante_, pp. 94, 95.

[71] August 24, 1855; Holland, 145.

[72] For a good sketch of Douglas, see Elaine, _Twenty Years of
Congress_, i. 144.

[73] This doctrine was set forth by Douglas in a speech at Springfield,
Ill., June 12, 1857. A fortnight later, June 26, at the same place,
Lincoln answered this speech. N. and H. ii. 85-89.

[74] By 11,300 against 1,788, August 2, 1858. Kansas was admitted as a
State at the close of January, 1861, after many of the Southern States
had already seceded.



About this time Lincoln again became active in the politics of his
State, aiding in the formation of the Republican party there. On May 29,
1856, a state convention of "all opponents of anti-Nebraska legislation"
was held at Bloomington. After "a platform ringing with strong
anti-Nebraska sentiments" had been adopted, Lincoln, "in response to
repeated calls, came forward and delivered a speech of such earnestness
and power that no one who heard it will ever forget the effect it
produced." It was "never written out or printed," which is to be
regretted; but it lives in one of those vivid descriptions by Herndon
which leave nothing to the imagination. For the moment this triumph was
gratifying; but when Lincoln, leaving the hot enthusiasts of
Bloomington, came home to his fellow townsmen at Springfield, he passed
into a chill atmosphere of indifference and disapproval. An effort was
made to gather a mass meeting in order to ratify the action of the state
convention. But the "mass" consisted of three persons, viz., Abraham
Lincoln, Herndon, and one John Pain. It was trying, but Lincoln was
finely equal to the occasion; in a few words, passing from jest to
earnest, he said that the meeting was larger than he _knew_ it would be;
for while he knew that he and his partner would attend, he was not sure
of any one else; and yet another man had been found brave enough to come
out. But, "while all seems dead, the age itself is not. It liveth as
sure as our Maker liveth. Under all this seeming want of life and motion
the world does move, nevertheless. Be hopeful, and now let us adjourn
and appeal to the people!"

In the presidential campaign of 1856 the Republicans of Illinois put
Lincoln on their electoral ticket, and he entered into the campaign
promptly and very zealously. Traveling untiringly to and fro, he made
about fifty speeches. By the quality of these, even more than by their
number, he became the champion of the party, so that pressing demands
for him came from the neighboring States. He was even heard of in the
East. But there he encountered a lack of appreciation and in some
quarters an hostility which he felt to be hurtful to his prospects as
well as unjust towards a leading Republican of the Northwest. Horace
Greeley, enthusiastic, well meaning, ever blundering, the editor of the
New York "Tribune," cast the powerful influence of that sheet against
him; and as the senatorial contest of 1858 was approaching, in which
Lincoln hoped to be a principal, this ill feeling was very
unfortunate.[75] "I fear," he said, "that Greeley's attitude will
damage me with Sumner, Seward, Wilson, Phillips, and other friends in
the East,"--and by the way, it is interesting to note this significant
list of political "friends." Thereupon Herndon, as guardian of Lincoln's
political prospects, went to pass the opening months of the important
year upon a crusade among the great men of the East, designing to
extinguish the false lights erroneously hung out by persons ignorant of
the truth. Erelong he cheered Lincoln by encouraging accounts of
success, and of kind words spoken by many Eastern magnates.

In 1858, ability, courage, activity, ambition, the prestige of success,
and a plausible moderation in party politics combined to make Douglas
the most conspicuous individual in the public view. There was no other
way whereby any other man could so surely attract the close and
interested attention of the whole people as by meeting Douglas in direct
personal competition. If Douglas had not held the position which he did,
or if, holding it, he had lived in another State than Illinois, Lincoln
might never have been President of the United States. But the essential
facts lay favorably for effecting that presentation before the people
which was indispensable for his fortunes. In April, 1858, the
Democratic State Convention of Illinois indorsed the position which
Douglas had taken in the Kansas business. This involved that the party
should present him as its candidate for reelection to the national
Senate by the legislature whose members were to be chosen in the
following autumn. "In the very nature of things," says the enthusiastic
Herndon, Lincoln was at once selected by the Republicans, and on June 16
their convention resolved that "Hon. Abraham Lincoln is our first and
only choice for United States senator to fill the vacancy about to be
created by the expiration of Mr. Douglas's term of office." Immediately
the popular excitement gave measure of the estimate placed upon the two
men by those who most accurately knew their qualities. All Illinoisians
looked forward eagerly to the fine spectacle of a battle royal between
real leaders.

The general political condition was extremely confused. The great number
of worthy citizens, who had been wont to save themselves from the worry
of critical thought in political matters by the simple process of
uniform allegiance to a party, now found the old familiar organizations
rapidly disintegrating. They were dismayed and bewildered at the scene;
everywhere there were new cries, new standards, new leaders, while small
bodies of recruits, displaying in strange union old comrades beside old
foes, were crossing to and fro and changing relationships, to the
inextricable confusion of the situation. In such a chaos each man was
driven to do his own thinking, to discover his genuine beliefs, and to
determine in what company he could stand enduringly in the troublous
times ahead. It was one of those periods in which small men are laid
aside and great leaders are recognized by popular instinct; when the
little band that is in deepest earnest becomes endowed with a force
which compels the mass of careless, temporizing human-kind to gravitate
towards it. Such bands were now the Abolitionists at the North and the
Secessionists at the South. Between them lay the nation, disquieted,
contentious, and more than a little angry at the prevalent discomfort
and alarm. At the North nine men out of ten cared far less for any
principle, moral or political, than they did for the discovery of some
course whereby this unwelcome conflict between slavery and freedom could
be prevented from disorganizing the course of daily life and business;
and since the Abolitionists were generally charged with being in great
measure responsible for the present menacing condition, they were
regarded with bitter animosity by a large number of their fellow
citizens. The Secessionists were not in equal disfavor at the South, yet
they were still very much in the minority, even in the Gulf States.

Illinois had been pretty stanchly Democratic in times past, but no one
could forecast the complexion which she would put on in the coming
campaign. The Whigs were gone. The Republican party, though so lately
born, yet had already traversed the period of infancy and perhaps also
that of youth; men guessed wildly how many voters would now cast its
ballot. On the other hand, the Democrats were suffering from internal
quarrels. The friends of Douglas, and all moderate Democrats, declared
him to be the leader of the Democracy; but Southern conventions and
newspapers were angrily "reading him out" of the party, and the singular
spectacle was witnessed of the Democratic administration sending out its
orders to all Federal office-holders in Illinois to oppose the
Democratic nominee, even to the point of giving the election to the
Republicans; for if discipline was to exist, a defection like that of
which Douglas had been guilty must be punished with utter and
everlasting destruction at any cost. This schism of course made the
numerical uncertainties even more uncertain than they rightfully should
have been. Yet, in an odd way, the same fact worked also against
Lincoln; for Douglas's recent votes against the pro-slavery measures of
the administration for the admission of Kansas, together with his own
direct statements on recent occasions, had put him in a light which
misled many Northern anti-slavery men, whose perception did not
penetrate to the core-truth. For example, not only Greeley, but Henry
Wilson, Burlingame, Washburne, Colfax, and more, really believed that
Douglas was turning his back upon his whole past career, and that this
brilliant political strategist was actually bringing into the
anti-slavery camp[76] all his accumulations of prestige, popularity, and
experience, all his seductive eloquence, his skill, and his grand
mastery over men. Blinded by the dazzling prospect, they gave all their
influence in favor of this priceless recruit, forgetting that, if he
were in fact such an apostate as they believed him to be, he would come
to them terribly shrunken in value and trustworthiness. Some even were
so infatuated as to insist that the Republicans of Illinois ought to
present no candidate against him. Fortunately the Illinoisians knew
their fellow citizen better; yet in so strange a jumble no one could
deny that it was a doubtful conflict in which these two rivals were

Lincoln had expected to be nominated, and during several weeks he had
been thinking over his speech of acceptance. However otherwise he might
seem at any time to be engaged, he was ceaselessly turning over this
matter in his mind; and frequently he stopped short to jot down an idea
or expression upon some scrap of paper, which then he thrust into his
hat. Thus, piece by piece, the accumulation grew alike inside and
outside of his head, and at last he took all his fragments and with
infinite consideration moulded them into unity. So studiously had he
wrought that by the time of delivery he had unconsciously committed the
whole speech accurately to memory. If so much painstaking seemed to
indicate an exaggerated notion of the importance of his words, he was
soon vindicated by events; for what he said was subjected to a
dissection and a criticism such as have not often pursued the winged
words of the orator. When at last the composition was completed, he
gathered a small coterie of his friends and admirers, and read it to
them. The opening paragraph was as follows:--

"If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we
could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the
fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and
confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the
operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but
has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a
crisis shall have been reached and passed. '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.
Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it,
and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is
in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it
forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as
well as new,--North as well as South."

As the reader watched for the effect of this exordium he only saw
disapproval and consternation. His assembled advisers and critics, each
and all save only the fiery Herndon, protested that language so daring
and advanced would work a ruin that might not be mended in years.
Lincoln heard their condemnation with gravity rather than surprise. But
he had worked his way to a conviction, and he was immovable; all he said
was, that the statement was true, right, and just, that it was time it
should be made, and that he would make it, even though he might have "to
go down with it;" that he would "rather be defeated with this expression
in the speech ... than to be victorious without it." Accordingly, on the
next day he spoke the paragraph without the change of a word.

It is not without effort that we can now appreciate fully why this
utterance was so momentous in the spring of 1858.[77] By it Lincoln came
before the people with a plain statement of precisely that which more
than nine hundred and ninety-nine persons in every thousand, especially
at the North, were striving with all their might to stamp down as an
untruth; he said to them what they all were denying with desperation,
and with rage against the asserters. Their bitterness was the greater
because very many, in the bottom of their hearts, distrusted their own
painful and strenuous denial. No words could be more unpopular than that
the divided house could not permanently stand, when the whole nation was
insisting, with the intensity of despair, that it could stand, would
stand, must stand. Consequently occurrences soon showed his friends to
be right so far as concerned the near, practical point: that the
paragraph would cost more voters in Illinois than Lincoln could lose
without losing his election. But beyond that point, a little farther
away in time, much deeper down amid enduring results, Lincoln's judgment
was ultimately seen to rest upon fundamental wisdom, politically as well
as morally. For Lincoln was no idealist, sacrificing realities to
abstractions; on the contrary, the right which he saw was always a
practical right, a right which could be compassed. In this instance, the
story goes that he retorted upon some of those who grumbled about his
"mistake," that in time they "would consider it the wisest thing he ever
said." In this he foretold truly; that daring and strong utterance was
the first link in the chain of which a more distant link lay across the
threshold of the White House.

A battle opened by so resounding a shot was sure to be furious. Writers
and speakers fell upon the fateful paragraph and tore it savagely. They
found in it a stimulus which, in fact, was not needed; for already were
present all the elements of the fiercest struggle,--the best man and the
best fighter in each party at the front, and not unevenly matched; a
canvass most close and doubtful; and a question which stirred the souls
of men with the passions of crusading days. Douglas added experience and
distinction to gallantry in attack, adroitness in defense, readiness in
personalities, and natural aptitude for popular oratory. Lincoln frankly
admitted his formidable qualifications. But the Republican managers had
a shrewd appreciation of both opponents; they saw that Lincoln's forte
lay in hitting out straight, direct, and hard; and they felt that blows
of the kind he delivered should not go out into the air, but should
alight upon a concrete object,--upon Douglas. They conceived a wise
plan. On July 24, 1858, Lincoln challenged Douglas to a series of joint
debates. Douglas accepted, and named seven meetings, which he so
arranged that he opened and closed four times and Lincoln opened and
closed three times; but Lincoln made no point of the inequality; the
arrangement was completed, and this famous duel constituted another link
in that White House chain.

The setting of the spectacle had the picturesqueness of the times and
the region. The people gathered in vast multitudes, to the number of
ten thousand, even of twenty thousand, at the places named for the
speech-making; they came in their wagons from all the country round,
bringing provisions, and making camps in the groves and fields. There
were bonfires and music, parading and drinking. He was a singular man in
Illinois who was not present at some one of these encounters.

Into a competition so momentous Lincoln entered with a full appreciation
of the burden and responsibility which it put upon him. He had at once
to meet a false gloss of his famous sentence; and though he had been
very precise and accurate in his phraseology for the express purpose of
escaping misinterpretation, yet it would have been a marvel in applied
political morals if the paraphrases devised by Douglas had been strictly
ingenuous. The favorite distortion was to alter what was strictly a
forecast into a declaration of a policy, to make a prediction pass for
an avowal of a purpose to wage war against slavery until either the
"institution" or "Abolitionism" should be utterly defeated and forever
exterminated. It was said to be a "doctrine" which was "revolutionary
and destructive of this government," and which "invited a warfare
between the North and the South, to be carried on with ruthless
vengeance, until the one section or the other shall be driven to the
wall and become the victim of the rapacity of the other." Such
misrepresentation annoyed Lincoln all the more because it was
undeserved. The history of the utterance thus maltreated illustrates the
deliberate, cautious, thorough way in which his mind worked. So long ago
as August 15, 1855, he had closed a letter with the paragraph: "Our
political problem now is: Can we, as a nation, continue together
_permanently_--_forever_, half slave and half free? The problem is too
mighty for me. May God in his mercy superintend the solution."[78] This
is one among many instances which show how studiously Lincoln pondered
until he had got his conclusion into that simple shape in which it was
immutable. When he had found a form which satisfied him for the
expression of a conviction, he was apt to use it repeatedly rather than
to seek new and varied shapes, so that substantially identical sentences
often recur at distant intervals of time and place.

When one has been long studying with much earnest intensity of thought a
perplexing and moving question, and at last frames a conclusion with
painstaking precision in perfectly clear language, it is not pleasant to
have that accurate utterance misstated with tireless reiteration, and
with infinite art and plausibility. But for this vexation Lincoln could
find no remedy, and it was in vain that he again and again called
attention to the fact that he had expressed neither a "doctrine," nor an
"invitation," nor any "purpose" or policy whatsoever. But as it seemed
not altogether courageous to leave his position in doubt, he said: "Now,
it is singular enough, if you will carefully read that passage over,
that I did not say in it that I was in favor of anything. I only said
what I expected would take place.... I did not even say that I desired
that slavery should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do say so
now, however, so there need be no longer any difficulty about that." He
felt that nothing short of such extinction would surely prevent the
revival of a dispute which had so often been settled "_forever_." "We
can no more foretell," he said, "where the end of this slavery agitation
will be than we can see the end of the world itself.... There is no way
of putting an end to the slavery agitation amongst us but to put it back
upon the basis where our fathers placed it.... Then the public mind will
rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction."

There was much of this eloquence about "the fathers," much evocation of
the shades of the great departed, who, having reached the eternal
silence, could be claimed by both sides. The contention was none the
less strenuous because it was entirely irrelevant; since the opinion of
"the fathers" could not make slavery right or wrong. Many times
therefore did Douglas charge Lincoln with having said "that the Union
could not endure divided as our fathers made it, with free and slave
States;" as though this were a sort of blasphemy against the national
demigods. Lincoln aptly retorted that, as matter of fact, these same
distinguished "fathers"--"Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison,
Hamilton, Jay, and the great men of that day"--did not _make_, but
_found_, the nation half slave and half free; that they set "many clear
marks of disapprobation" upon slavery, and left it so situated that the
popular mind rested in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate
extinction. Unfortunately it had not been allowed to remain as they had
left it; but on the contrary, "all the trouble and convulsion has
proceeded from the efforts to spread it over more territory."

Pursuing this line, Lincoln alleged the purpose of the pro-slavery men
to make slavery "perpetual and universal" and "national." In his great
speech of acceptance at Springfield he put this point so well that he
never improved upon this first presentation of it. The repeal of the
Missouri Compromise in 1854 "opened all the national territory to
slavery, and was the first point gained. But so far Congress only had
acted, and an indorsement by the people, real or imaginary," was
obtained by "the notable argument of 'squatter sovereignty,' otherwise
called 'sacred right of self-government,' which latter phrase, though
expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so
perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: that if
any _one_ man choose to enslave _another_, no _third_ man shall be
permitted to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska
bill." In May, 1854, this bill was passed. Then the presidential
election came. "Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement was
secured. That was the second point gained." Meantime the celebrated case
of the negro, Dred Scott, was pending in the Supreme Court, and the
"President in his inaugural address fervently exhorted the people to
abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then in a few
days came the decision," which was at once emphatically indorsed by
Douglas, "the reputed author of the Nebraska bill," and by the new

"At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of
the Nebraska bill on the mere question of _fact_, whether the Lecompton
Constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of
Kansas; and in that quarrel the latter declares that all he wants is a
fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted
_down_ or voted _up_.

... "The several points of the Dred Scott decision in connection with
Senator Douglas's 'care not' policy constitute the piece of machinery in
its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained.

... "We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the
result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different
portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and
places and by different workmen,--Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James,
for instance,--and when we see these timbers joined together, and see
they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and
mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the
different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a
piece too many or too few,--not omitting even scaffolding; or, if a
single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted
and prepared yet to bring such piece in,--in such a case, we find it
impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James
all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a
common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.

"It should not be overlooked that by the Nebraska bill the people of a
_State_ as well as a Territory were to be left 'perfectly free,'
'subject only to the Constitution.' Why mention a _State_?... Why is
mention of this lugged into this merely territorial law?

... "Put this and that together, and we have another nice little niche,
which we may erelong see filled with another Supreme Court decision,
declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a
_State_ to exclude slavery from its limits. And this may especially be
expected if the doctrine of 'care not whether slavery be voted down or
voted up' shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise
that such a decision can be maintained when made. Such a decision is all
that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States."
Following out this idea, Lincoln repeatedly put to Douglas a question to
which he could never get a direct answer from his nimble antagonist: "If
a decision is made, holding that the people of the _States_ cannot
exclude slavery, will he support it, or not?"

Even so skillful a dialectician as Douglas found this compact structure
of history and argument a serious matter. Its simple solidity was not so
susceptible to treatment by the perverting process as had been the
figurative and prophetic utterance about the "house divided against
itself." Neither could he find a chink between the facts and the
inferences. One aspect of the speech, however, could not be passed over.
Lincoln said that he had not charged "Stephen and Franklin and Roger and
James" with collusion and conspiracy; but he admitted that he had
"arrayed the evidence tending to prove," and which he "thought did
prove," these things.[79] It was impossible for the four distinguished
gentlemen[80] who owned the rest of these names to refuse to plead.
Accordingly Douglas sneered vehemently at the idea that two presidents,
the chief justice, and he himself had been concerned in that grave crime
against the State which was imputed to them; and when, by his lofty
indignation, he had brought his auditors into sympathy, he made the only
possible reply: that the real meaning, the ultimate logical outcome, of
what Lincoln had said was, that a decision of the Supreme Court was to
be set aside by the political action of the people at the polls. The
Supreme Court had interpreted the Constitution, and Lincoln was inciting
the people to annul that interpretation by some political process not
known to the law. For himself, he proclaimed with effective emphasis his
allegiance to that great tribunal in the performance of its
constitutional duties. Lincoln replied that he also bowed to the Dred
Scott decision in the specific case; but he repudiated it as a binding
rule in political action.[81] His point seemed more obscure than was
usual with him, and not satisfactory as an answer to Douglas. But as
matter of fact no one was deceived by the amusing adage of the
profession: that the courts do not _make_ the law, but only _declare
what it is_. Every one knew that the law was just what the judges chose
from time to time to say that it was, and that if judicial
_declarations_ of the law were not reversed quite so often as
legislative _makings_ of the law were repealed, it was only because the
identity of a bench is usually of longer duration than the identity of a
legislative body. If the people, politically, willed the reversal of the
Dred Scott decision, it was sure in time to be judicially reversed.[82]

Douglas boasted that the Democrats were a national party, whereas the
"Black Republicans" were a sectional body whose creed could not be
uttered south of Mason and Dixon's line. He was assiduous in fastening
upon Lincoln the name of "Abolitionist," and "Black Republican,"
epithets so unpopular that those who held the faith often denied the
title, and he only modified them by the offensive admission that
Lincoln's doctrines were sometimes disingenuously weakened to suit
certain audiences: "His principles in the north [of Illinois] are jet
black; in the centre they are in color a decent mulatto; and in lower
Egypt[83] they are almost white."

Concerning sectionalism, Lincoln countered fairly enough on his
opponent by asking: Was it, then, the case that it was slavery which was
national, and freedom which was sectional? Or, "Is it the true test of
the soundness of a doctrine that in some places people won't let you
proclaim it?" But the remainder of Douglas's assault was by no means to
be disposed of by quick retort. When Lincoln was pushed to formulate
accurately his views concerning the proper status of the negro in the
community, he had need of all his extraordinary care in statement.
Herein lay problems that were vexing many honest citizens and clever men
besides himself, and were breeding much disagreement among persons who
all were anti-slavery in a general way, but could by no means reach a
comfortable unison concerning troublesome particulars. The "all men free
and equal" of the Constitution, and the talk about human brotherhood,
gave the Democrats wide scope for harassing anti-slavery men with
vexatious taunts and embarrassing cross-interrogatories on practical
points. "I do not question," said Douglas, "Mr. Lincoln's conscientious
belief that the negro was made his equal, and hence is his brother. But
for my own part, I do not regard the negro as my equal, and positively
deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever." He said that
"the signers of the Declaration had no reference to the negro,... or any
other inferior and degraded race, when they spoke of the equality of
men," but meant only "white men, of European birth and descent." This
topic opens the whole subject of Lincoln's political affiliations and of
his opinions concerning slavery and the negro, opinions which seem to
have undergone no substantial change during the interval betwixt this
campaign and his election to the presidency. Some selections from what
he said may sufficiently explain his position.

At Freeport, August 27, replying to a series of questions from Douglas,
he declared that he had supposed himself, "since the organization of the
Republican party at Bloomington, in May, 1856, bound as a party man by
the platforms of the party, then and since." He said: "I do not now, nor
ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the Fugitive
Slave Law." He believed that under the Constitution the Southerners were
entitled to such a law; but thought that the existing law "should have
been framed so as to be free from some of the objections that pertain to
it, without lessening its efficiency." He would not "introduce it as a
new subject of agitation upon the general question of slavery."

He should be "exceedingly sorry" ever to have to pass upon the question
of admitting more slave States into the Union, and exceedingly glad to
know that another never would be admitted. But "if slavery shall be kept
out of the Territories during the territorial existence of any one given
Territory, and then the people shall, having a fair chance and a clear
field, when they come to adopt their constitution, do such an
extraordinary thing as to adopt a slave constitution, uninfluenced by
the actual presence of the institution among them, I see no alternative,
if we own the country, but to admit them into the Union." He should
also, he said, be "exceedingly glad to see slavery abolished in the
District of Columbia," and he believed that Congress had "constitutional
power to abolish it" there; but he would favor the measure only upon
condition: "First, that the abolition should be gradual; second, that it
should be on a vote of the majority of qualified voters in the District;
and, third, that compensation should be made to unwilling owners." As to
the abolition of the slave trade between the different States, he
acknowledged that he had not considered the matter sufficiently to have
reached a conclusion concerning it. But if he should think that Congress
had power to effect such abolition, he should "not be in favor of the
exercise of that power unless upon some conservative principle, akin to
what I have said in relation to the abolition of slavery in the District
of Columbia." As to the territorial controversy, he said: "I am
impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the _right_ and
_duty_ of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States
Territories." Concerning the acquisition of new territory he said: "I am
not generally opposed to honest acquisition of territory; and in any
given case I would or would not oppose such acquisition, according as I
might think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the slavery
question among ourselves." The statement derived its immediate
importance from the well-known purpose of the administration and a
considerable party in the South very soon to acquire Cuba. All these
utterances were certainly clear enough, and were far from constituting
Abolitionist doctrine, though they were addressed to an audience "as
strongly tending to Abolitionism as any audience in the State of
Illinois," and Mr. Lincoln believed that he was saying "that which, if
it would be offensive to any person and render them enemies to himself,
would be offensive to persons in this audience."

At Quincy Lincoln gave his views concerning Republicanism with his usual
unmistakable accuracy, and certainly he again differentiated it widely
from Abolitionism. The Republican party, he said, think slavery "a
moral, a social, and a political wrong." Any man who does not hold this
opinion "is misplaced and ought to leave us. While, on the other hand,
if there be any man in the Republican party who is impatient over the
necessity springing from its actual presence, and is impatient of the
constitutional guarantees thrown around it, and would act in disregard
of these, he, too, is misplaced, standing with us. He will find his
place somewhere else; for we have a due regard ... for all these
things." ... "I have always hated slavery as much as any
Abolitionist,... but I have always been quiet about it until this new
era of the introduction of the Nebraska bill again." He repeated often
that he had "no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists;" that he had "no
lawful right to do so," and "no inclination to do so." He said that his
declarations as to the right of the negro to "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness" were designed only to refer to legislation "about
any new country which is not already cursed with the actual presence of
the evil,--slavery." He denied having ever "manifested any impatience
with the necessities that spring from the ... actual existence of
slavery among us, where it does already exist."

He dwelt much upon the equality clause of the Declaration. If we begin
"making exceptions to it, where will it stop? If one man says it does
not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man?"
Only within three years past had any one doubted that negroes were
included by this language. But he said that, while the authors "intended
to include _all_ men, they did not mean to declare all men equal _in all
respects_,... in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social
capacity," but only "equal in certain inalienable rights." "Anything
that argues me into his [Douglas's] idea of perfect social and political
equality with the negro is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of
words, by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut
horse.... I have no purpose to produce political and social equality
between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference
between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid
their living together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch
as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well as
Judge Douglas, am in favor of the race to which I belong having the
superior position.... But I hold that ... there is no reason in the
world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated
in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the
white man. I agree with Judge Douglas that he is not my equal in many
respects,--certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual
endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of
anybody else, which his own hand earns, _he is my equal, and the equal
of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man_." Later at
Charleston he reiterated much of this in almost identical language, and
then in his turn took his fling at Douglas: "I am not in favor of making
voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor
to intermarry with white people.... I do not understand that because I
do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a
wife. My understanding is that I can just let her alone.... I have never
had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes, if
there was no law to keep them from it; but as Judge Douglas and his
friends seem to be in great apprehension that _they_ might, if there
were no law to keep them from it, I give him the most solemn pledge that
I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids
the marrying of white people with negroes."

By all this it is made entirely evident that Lincoln held a faith widely
different from that of the great crusading leaders of Abolitionism at
the East.[84] Equally marked was the difference between him and them in
the matters of temper and of the attitude taken towards opponents. The
absence of any sense of personal hostility towards those who assailed
him with unsparing vindictiveness was a trait often illustrated in his
after life, and which was now noted with surprise, for it was rare in
the excited politics of those days. In this especial campaign both
contestants honestly intended to refrain from personalities, but the
difference between their ways of doing so was marked. Douglas, under the
temptation of high ability in that line, held himself in check by an
effort which was often obvious and not always entirely successful. But
Lincoln never seemed moved by the desire. "All I have to ask," he said,
"is that we talk reasonably and rationally;" and again: "I hope to deal
in all things fairly with Judge Douglas." No innuendo, no artifice, in
any speech, gave the lie to these protestations. Besides this, his
denunciations were always against _slavery_, and never against
_slaveholders_. The emphasis of condemnation, the intensity of feeling,
were never expended against persons. By this course, unusual among the
Abolitionists, he not only lost nothing in force and impressiveness,
but, on the contrary, his attack seemed to gain in effectiveness by
being directed against no personal object, but exclusively against a
practice. His war was against slavery, not against the men and women of
the South who owned slaves. At Ottawa he read from the Peoria speech of
1854: "I have no prejudice against the Southern people. They are just
what we would [should] be in their situation. If slavery did not now
exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist among
us, we should not instantly give it up.... It does seem to me that
systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but for their
tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the
South." Repeatedly he admitted the difficulty of the problem, and
fastened no blame upon those Southerners who excused themselves for not
expelling the evil on the ground that they did not know how to do so. At
Peoria he said: "If all earthly power were given me, I should not know
what to do as to the existing institution." He contributed some
suggestions which certainly were nothing better than chimerical.
Deportation to Africa was his favorite scheme; he also proposed that it
would be "best for all concerned to have the colored population in a
State by themselves." But he did not abuse men who declined to adopt his
methods. Though he was dealing with a question which was arousing
personal antagonisms as bitter as any that history records, yet he never
condemned any one, nor ever passed judgment against his fellow men.

Diagnosis would perhaps show that the trait thus illustrated was mental
rather than moral. This absence of animosity and reproach as towards
individuals found its root not so much in human charity as in fairness
of thinking. Lincoln's ways of mental working are not difficult to
discover. He thought slowly, cautiously, profoundly, and with a most
close accuracy; but above all else he _thought fairly_. This capacity
far transcended, or, more correctly, differed from, what is ordinarily
called the judicial habit of mind. Many men can weigh arguments without
letting prejudice get into either scale; but Lincoln carried on the
whole process of thinking, not only with an equal clearness of
perception, but also with an entire impartiality of liking or disliking
for both sides. His aim, while he was engaged in thinking, was to
discover what was really true; and later when he spoke to others his
purpose was to show them the truth which he had discovered, and to
state to them on what grounds he believed it to be the truth; it did not
involve a judgment against the individuals who failed to recognize that
truth. His singular trait of impersonality was not made more apparent in
any other way. His effort never was to defeat the person who happened to
be his adversary, but always was to overcome the arguments of that
adversary. Primarily he was discussing a topic and establishing a truth;
it was only incidental that in doing these things he had to oppose a
man. It is noteworthy that his opponents never charged him with
misstating their case in order to make an apparently effective answer to
it. On the contrary, his hope of success seemed always to lie in having
both sides presented with the highest degree of clearness and honesty.
He had perfect confidence in the ultimate triumph of the truth; he was
always willing to tie fast to it, according as he could see it, and then
to bide time with it. This being a genuine faith and not mere
lip-service, he used the same arguments to others which he used to
himself, and staked his final success upon the probability that what had
persuaded his mind would in time persuade also the minds of other
intelligent men. It has been well said of him by an excellent judge: "He
loved the truth for the truth's sake. He would not argue from a false
premise, or be deceived himself, or deceive others, by a false
conclusion.... He did not seek to say merely the thing which was best
for that day's debate, but the thing which would stand the test of
time, and square itself with eternal justice.... His logic was severe
and faultless. He did not resort to fallacy."[85]

To return to the points made in the debate: Douglas laid down the "great
principle of non-interference and non-intervention by Congress with
slavery in the States and Territories alike;" which he assured his
audience would enable us to "continue at peace with one another." In the
same connection he endeavored to silver-coat for Northern palates the
bitter pill of the Dred Scott decision, by declaring that the people of
any State or Territory might withhold that protecting legislation, those
"friendly police regulations," without which slavery could not exist.
But this was, indeed, a "lame, illogical, evasive answer," which enabled
Lincoln to "secure an advantage in the national relations of the contest
which he held to the end."

Lincoln, in replying, agreed that "all the States have the right to do
exactly as they please about all their domestic relations, including
that of slavery." But he said that the proposition that slavery could
not enter a new country without police regulations was historically
false; and that the facts of the Dred Scott case itself showed that
there was "vigor enough in slavery to plant itself in a new country even
against unfriendly legislation." Beyond this issue of historical fact,
Douglas had already taken and still dared to maintain a position which
proved to be singularly ill chosen. The right to hold slaves as property
in the Territories had lately, to the infinite joy of the South, been
declared by the Supreme Court to be guaranteed by the Constitution; and
now Douglas had the audacity to repeat that notion of his, so abhorrent
to all friends of slavery,--that this invaluable right could be made
practically worthless by unfriendly local legislation, or even by the
negative hostility of withholding friendly legislation! From the moment
when this deadly suggestion fell from his ingenious lips, the Southern
Democracy turned upon him with vindictive hate and marked him for
destruction. He had also given himself into the hands of his avowed and
natural enemies. The doctrine, said Mr. Lincoln, is "no less than that a
thing may lawfully be driven away from a place where it has a lawful
right to be." "If you were elected members of the legislature, what
would be the first thing you would have to do, before entering upon your
duties? _Swear to support the Constitution of the United States_.
Suppose you believe, as Judge Douglas does, that the Constitution of the
United States guarantees to your neighbor the right to hold slaves in
that Territory,--that they are his property,--how can you clear your
oaths, unless you give him such legislation as is necessary to enable
him to enjoy that property? What do you understand by supporting the
Constitution of a State, or of the United States? Is it not to give such
constitutional helps to the rights established by that Constitution as
may be practically needed?... And what I say here will hold with still
more force against the judge's doctrine of 'unfriendly legislation.' How
could you, having sworn to support the Constitution, and believing it
guaranteed the right to hold slaves in the Territories, assist in
legislation _intended to defeat that right_?" "Is not Congress itself
under obligation to give legislative support to any right that is
established under the United States Constitution?" Upon what other
principle do "many of us, who are opposed to slavery upon principle,
give our acquiescence to a Fugitive Slave Law?" Does Douglas mean to say
that a territorial legislature, "by passing unfriendly laws," can
"_nullify a constitutional right_?" He put to Douglas the direct and
embarrassing query: "If the slaveholding citizens of a United States
Territory should need and demand congressional legislation for the
protection of their slave property in such Territory, would you, as a
member of Congress, vote for or against such legislation?" "Repeat
that," cried Douglas, ostentatiously; "I want to answer that question."
But he never composed his reply.

Another kindred question had already been put by Lincoln: "Can the
people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish
of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits,
prior to the formation of a State Constitution?" Friends advised him not
to force this, as it seemed against the immediate policy of the present
campaign. But it was never his way to subordinate his own deliberate
opinion to the opinions of advisers; and on this occasion he was
merciless in pressing this question. A story has been very generally
repeated that he told the protesters that, whatever might be the bearing
on the senatorship, Douglas could not answer that question and be
elected President of the United States in 1860. "I am killing larger
game," he said; "the battle of 1860 is worth a hundred of this."[86] A
few legends of this kind are extant, which tend to indicate that Lincoln
already had in mind the presidential nomination, and was fighting the
present fight with an eye to that greater one in the near future. It is
not easy to say how much credit should be given to such tales; they may
not be wholly inventions, but a remark which is uttered with little
thought may later easily take on a strong color in the light of
subsequent developments.

In presenting the Republican side of the question Lincoln seemed to feel
a duty beyond that of merely outarguing his opponent. He bore the
weighty burden of a responsibility graver than personal success. He
might prevail in the opinions of his fellow citizens; without this
instant triumph he might so present his cause that the jury of posterity
would declare that the truth lay with him; he might even convince both
the present and the coming generations; and though achieving all these
triumphs, he might still fall far short of the peculiar and exacting
requirement of the occasion. For the winning of the senatorship was the
insignificant part of what he had undertaken; his momentous charge was
to maintain a grand moral crusade, to stimulate and to vindicate a great
uprising in the cause of humanity and of justice. His full appreciation
of this is entirely manifest in the tone of his speeches. They have an
earnestness, a gravity, at times even a solemnity, unusual in such
encounters in any era or before any audiences, but unprecedented "on the
stump" before the uproarious gatherings of the West at that day.
Repeatedly he stigmatized slavery as "a moral, a social, a political
evil." Very impressively he denounced the positions of an opponent who
"cared not whether slavery was voted down or voted up," who said that
slavery was not to be differentiated from the many domestic institutions
and daily affairs which civilized societies control by police
regulations. He said that slavery could not be treated as "only equal to
the cranberry laws of Indiana;" that slaves could not be put "upon a par
with onions and potatoes;" that to Douglas he supposed that the
institution really "looked small," but that a great proportion of the
American people regarded slavery as "a vast moral evil." "The real issue
in this controversy--the one pressing upon every mind--is the sentiment
on the part of one class that looks upon the institution of slavery _as
a wrong_, and of another class that does _not_ look upon it as a
wrong.... No man can logically say he does not care whether a wrong is
voted up or voted down. He [Douglas] contends that whatever community
wants slaves has a right to have them. So they have, if it is not a
wrong. But if it is a wrong, he cannot say people have a right to do
wrong. He says that, upon the score of equality, slaves should be
allowed to go into a new Territory, like other property. This is
strictly logical if there is no difference between it and other
property.... But if you insist that one is wrong and the other right,
there is no use to institute a comparison between right and wrong....
That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this
country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be
silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles, right
and wrong, throughout the world. They are the two principles that have
stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to
struggle. The one is the common right of humanity, and the other the
divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it
develops itself. It is the same spirit that says: 'You work and toil and
earn bread, and I'll eat it.'" "I ask you if it is not a false
philosophy? Is it not a false statesmanship that undertakes to build up
a system of policy upon the basis of caring nothing about _the very
thing that everybody does care the most about_?"

We cannot leave these speeches without a word concerning their literary
quality. In them we might have looked for vigor that would be a little
uncouth, wit that would be often coarse, a logic generally sound but
always clumsy,--in a word, tolerably good substance and very poor form.
We are surprised, then, to find many and high excellences in art. As it
is with Bacon's essays, so it is with these speeches: the more
attentively they are read the more striking appears the closeness of
their texture both in logic and in language. Clear thought is accurately
expressed. Each sentence has its special errand, and each word its
individual importance. There is never either too much or too little. The
work is done with clean precision and no waste. Nowhere does one pause
to seek a meaning or to recover a connection; and an effort to make out
a syllabus shows that the most condensed statement has already been
used. There are scintillations of wit and humor, but they are not very
numerous. When Lincoln was urged to adopt a more popular style, he
replied: "The occasion is too serious; the issues are too grave. I do
not seek applause, or to amuse the people, but to convince them." This
spirit was upon him from the beginning to the end. Had he been
addressing a bench of judges, subject to a close limitation of minutes,
he would have won credit by the combined economy and force which were
displayed in these harangues to general assemblages. To speak of the
lofty tone of these speeches comes dangerously near to the distasteful
phraseology of extravagant laudation, than which nothing else can
produce upon honest men a worse impression. Yet it is a truth visible to
every reader that at the outset Lincoln raised the discussion to a very
high plane, and held it there throughout. The truth which he had to
sustain was so great that it was perfectly simple, and he had the good
sense to utter it with appropriate simplicity. In no speech was there
fervor or enthusiasm or rhetoric; he talked to the reason and the
conscience of his auditors, not to their passions. Yet the depth of his
feeling may be measured by the story that once in the canvass he said to
a friend: "Sometimes, in the excitement of speaking, I seem to see the
end of slavery. I feel that the time is soon coming when the sun shall
shine, the rain fall, on no man who shall go forth to unrequited toil.
How this will come, when it will come, by whom it will come, I cannot
tell,--but that time will surely come."[87] It is just appreciation, and
not extravagance, to say that the cheap and miserable little volume, now
out of print, containing in bad newspaper type, "The Lincoln and Douglas
Debates,"[88] holds some of the masterpieces of oratory of all ages and

The immediate result of the campaign was the triumph of Douglas, who had
certainly made not only a very able and brilliant but a splendidly
gallant fight, with Republicans assailing him in front and
Administrationists in rear.[89] Lincoln was disappointed. His feelings
had been so deeply engaged, he had worked so strenuously, and the result
had been so much in doubt, that defeat was trying. But he bore it with
his wonted resolute equanimity. He said that he felt "like the boy that
stumped his toe,--'it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to
cry.'" In fact, there were encouraging elements.[90] The popular vote
stood,[91] Republicans, 126,084; Douglas Democrats, 121,940; Lecompton
Democrats, 5,091. But the apportionment of districts was such that the
legislature contained a majority for Douglas.[92] So the prestige of
victory seemed separated from its fruits; for the nation, attentively
watching this duel, saw that the new man had convinced upwards of four
thousand voters more than had the great leader of the Democracy.
Douglas is reported to have said that, during his sixteen years in
Congress, he had found no man in the Senate whom he would not rather
encounter in debate than Lincoln. If it was true that Lincoln was
already dreaming of the presidency, he was a sufficiently shrewd
politician to see that his prospects were greatly improved by this
campaign. He had worked hard for what he had gained; he had been
traveling incessantly to and fro and delivering speeches in unbroken
succession during about one hundred of the hot days of the Western
summer, and speeches not of a commonplace kind, but which severely taxed
the speaker. After all was over, he was asked by the state committee to
contribute to the campaign purse! He replied: "I am willing to pay
according to my ability, but I am the poorest hand living to get others
to pay. _I have been on expense_ so long, without earning anything, that
I am absolutely without money now for even household expenses. Still, if
you can put in $250 for me,... I will allow it when you and I settle the
private matter between us. This, with what I have already paid,... will
exceed my subscription of $500. This, too, is exclusive of my ordinary
expenses during the campaign, all of which being added to my loss of
time and business bears pretty heavily upon one no better off than I
am.... You are feeling badly; 'and this, too, shall pass away;' never

The platform which, with such precision and painstaking, Lincoln had
constructed for himself was made by him even more ample and more strong
by a few speeches delivered in the interval between the close of this
great campaign and his nomination by the Republicans for the presidency.
In Ohio an important canvass for the governorship took place, and
Douglas went there, and made speeches filled with allusions to Lincoln
and the recent Illinois campaign. Even without this provocation Lincoln
knew, by keen instinct, that where Douglas was, there he should be also.
In no other way had he yet appeared to such advantage as in encountering
"the Little Giant." To Ohio, accordingly, he hastened, and spoke at
Columbus and at Cincinnati.[93] To the citizens of the latter place he
said: "This is the first time in my life that I have appeared before an
audience in so great a city as this. I therefore make this appearance
under some degree of embarrassment." There was little novelty in
substance, but much in treatment. Thus, at Cincinnati, he imagined
himself addressing Kentuckians, and showed them that their next nominee
for the presidency ought to be his "distinguished friend, Judge
Douglas;" for "in all that there is a difference between you and him, I
understand he is sincerely for you, and more wisely for you than you are
for yourselves." Through him alone pro-slavery men retained any hold
upon the free States of the North; and in those States, "in every
possible way he can, he constantly moulds the public opinion to your
ends." Ingeniously but fairly he sketched Douglas as the most efficient
among the pro-slavery leaders. Perhaps the clever and truthful picture
may have led Mr. Greeley and some other gentlemen at the East to suspect
that they had been inconsiderate in their choice between the Western
rivals; and perhaps, also, Lincoln, while addressing imaginary
Kentuckians, had before his inner eye some Eastern auditors. For at the
time he did not know that his voice would ever be heard at any point
nearer to their ears than the hall in which he then stood. Within a few
weeks, however, this unlooked-for good fortune befell. In October, 1859,
he was invited to speak in the following winter in New York. That the
anti-slavery men of that city wished to test him by personal observation
signified that his reputation was national, and that the highest
aspirations were, therefore, not altogether presumptuous. He accepted
gladly, and immediately began to prepare an address which probably cost
him more labor than any other speech which he ever made. He found time,
however, in December to make a journey through Kansas, where he
delivered several speeches, which have not been preserved but are
described as "repetitions of those previously made in Illinois." Lamon
tells us that the journey was an "ovation," and that "wherever Lincoln
went, he was met by vast assemblages of people." The population of this
agricultural State was hardly in a condition to furnish "vast
assemblages" at numerous points, but doubtless the visitor received
gratifying assurance that upon this battle-ground of slavery and
anti-slavery the winning party warmly appreciated his advocacy of their

On Saturday, February 25, 1860, Lincoln arrived in New York. On Monday
his hosts "found him dressed in a sleek and shining suit of new black,
covered with very apparent creases and wrinkles, acquired by being
packed too closely and too long in his little valise. He felt uneasy in
his new clothes and a strange place." Certainly nothing in his previous
experience had prepared him to meet with entire indifference an audience
of metropolitan critics; indeed, had the surroundings been more
familiar, he had enough at stake to tax his equanimity when William
Cullen Bryant introduced him simply as "an eminent citizen of the West,
hitherto known to you only by reputation." Probably the first impression
made upon those auditors by the ungainly Westerner in his outlandish
garb were not the same which they carried home with them a little later.
The speech was so condensed that a sketch of it is not possible.
Fortunately it had the excellent quality of steadily expanding in
interest and improving to the end.

Of the Dred Scott case he cleverly said that the courts had decided it
"_in a sort of way_;" but, after all, the decision was "mainly based
upon a mistaken statement of fact,--the statement in the opinion that
'the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed
in the Constitution.'"

In closing, he begged the Republicans, in behalf of peace and harmony,
to "do nothing through passion and ill-temper;" but he immediately went
on to show the antagonism between Republican opinion and Democratic
opinion with a distinctness which left no hope of harmony, and very
little hope of peace. To satisfy the Southerners, he said, we must
"cease to call slavery _wrong_, and join them in calling it _right_. And
this must be done thoroughly,--done in _acts_ as well as in _words_....
We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We
must pull down our free-state Constitutions.... If slavery is right, all
words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it are themselves wrong,
and should be silenced and swept away. If it is right, we cannot object
to its nationality, its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly
insist upon its extension, its enlargement. All they ask we could
readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask they could as
readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right and our
thinking it wrong is the precise fact upon which depends the whole
controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for
desiring its full recognition, as being right; but thinking it wrong, as
we do, can we yield to them?... Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet
afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the
necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we,
while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the national
Territories, and to overrun us here in these free States? If our sense
of duty forbids this ... let us be diverted by no sophistical
contrivances, such as groping for some middle ground between the right
and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a
living man nor a dead man; such as a policy of 'don't care' on a
question about which all true men do care; such as Union appeals
beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine
rule and calling not the sinners but the righteous to repentance."

The next morning the best newspapers gave full reports of the speech,
with compliments. The columns of the "Evening Post" were generously
declared to be "indefinitely elastic" for such utterances; and the
"Tribune" expressed commendation wholly out of accord with the recent
notions of its editor. The rough fellow from the crude West had made a
powerful impression upon the cultivated gentlemen of the East.

From New York Lincoln went to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New
Hampshire, and Connecticut. In this last-named State he delivered
speeches which are said to have contributed largely to the Republican
success in the closely contested election then at hand. In Manchester it
was noticed that "he did not abuse the South, the administration, or
the Democrats, or indulge in any personalities, with the exception of a
few hits at Douglas's notions."[94]

These speeches of 1858, 1859, and 1860 have a very great value as
contributions to history. During that period every dweller in the United
States was hotly concerned about this absorbing question of slavery,
advancing his own views, weighing or encountering the arguments of
others, quarreling, perhaps, with his oldest friends and his nearest
kindred,--for about this matter men easily quarreled and rarely
compromised. Every man who fancied that he could speak in public got
upon some platform in city, town, or village, and secured an audience by
his topic if not by his ability; every one who thought that he could
write found some way to print what he had to say upon a subject of which
readers never tired; and for whatever purpose two or three men were
gathered together, they were not likely to separate without a few words
about North and South, pro-slavery and anti-slavery. Never was any
matter more harried and ransacked by disputation. Now to all the
speaking and writing of the Republicans Lincoln's condensed speeches
were what a syllabus is to an elaborate discourse, what a lawyer's brief
is to his verbal argument. Perhaps they may better be likened to an
anti-slavery gospel; as the New Testament is supposed to cover the whole
ground of Christian doctrines and Christian ethics, so that theologians
and preachers innumerable have only been able to make elaborations or
glosses upon the original text, so Lincoln's speeches contain the whole
basis of the anti-slavery cause as maintained by the Republican party.
They also set forth a considerable part of the Southern position,
doubtless as fairly as the machinations of the Devil are set forth in
Holy Writ. They only rather gingerly refrain from speaking of the small
body of ultra-Abolitionists,--for while Lincoln was far from agreeing
with these zealots, he felt that it was undesirable to widen by any
excavation upon his side the chasm between them and the Republicans. So
the fact is that the whole doctrine of Republicanism, as it existed
during the political campaign which resulted in the election of Lincoln,
also all the historical facts supporting that doctrine, were clearly and
accurately stated in these speeches. Specific points were more
elaborated by other persons; but every seed was to be found in this

This being the case, it is worth noticing that both Lincoln and Douglas
confined their disputation closely to the slavery question. Disunion and
secession were words familiar in every ear, yet Lincoln referred to
these things only twice or thrice, and incidentally, while Douglas
ignored them. This fact is fraught with meaning. American writers and
American readers have always met upon the tacit understanding that the
Union was the chief cause of, and the best justification for, the war.
An age may come when historians, treating our history as we treat that
of Greece, stirred by no emotion at the sight of the "Stars and
Stripes," moved by no patriotism at the name of the United States of
America, will seek a deeper philosophy to explain this obstinate,
bloody, costly struggle. Such writers may say that a rich, civilized
multitude of human beings, possessors of the quarter of a continent,
believing it best for their interests to set up an independent
government for themselves, fell back upon the right of revolution,
though they chose not to call it by that name. Now, even if it be
possible to go so far as to say that every nation has always a right to
preserve by force, if it can, its own integrity, certainly it cannot be
stated as a further truth that no portion of a nation can ever be
justified in endeavoring to obtain an independent national existence; no
citizen of this country can admit this, but must say that such an
endeavor is justifiable or not justifiable according as its cause and
basis are right or wrong. Far down, then, at the very bottom lay the
question whether the Southerners had a sufficient cause upon which to
base a revolution. Now this question was hardly conclusively answered by
the perfectly true statement that the North had not interfered with
Southern rights. Southerners might admit this, and still believe that
their welfare could be best subserved by a government wholly their own.
So the very bottom question of all still remained: Was the South
endeavoring to establish a government of its own for a justifiable
reason and a right purpose? Now the avowed purpose was to establish on
an enduring foundation a permanent slave empire; and the declared reason
was, that slavery was not safe within the Union. Underneath the question
of the Union therefore lay, logically, the question of slavery.

Lincoln and the other Republican leaders said that, if slavery extension
was prevented, then slavery was in the way of extinction. If the
assertion was true, it pretty clearly followed that the South could
retain slavery only by independence and a complete imperial control
within the limits of its own homogeneous nationality; for undeniably the
preponderant Northern mass was becoming firmly resolved that slavery
should not be extended, however it might be tolerated within its present
limits. So still, by anti-slavery statement itself, the ultimate
question was: whether or not the preservation of slavery was a right and
sufficient cause or purpose for establishing an independent nationality.
Lincoln, therefore, went direct to the logical heart of the contention,

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