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The Life of Stephen A. Douglas by William Gardner

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The Life of Stephen A. Douglas

by William Gardner


De mortuis nil nisi bonum, (of the dead speak nothing but good),
is the rule which governed the friends of Stephen A. Douglas after
his death. "Of political foes speak nothing but ill," is the rule
which has guided much of our discussion of him for forty years.
The time has now arrived when we can study him dispassionately
and judge him justly, when we can take his measure, if not with
scientific accuracy, at least with fairness and honesty.

Where party spirit is as despotic as it is among us, it is difficult
for any man who spends his life amid the storms of politics to get
justice until the passions of his generation have been forgotten.
Even then he is generally misjudged--canonized as a saint,
with extravagant eulogy, by those who inherit his party name, and
branded as a traitor or a demagogue by those who wear the livery
of opposition.

Douglas has perhaps suffered more from this method of dealing with
our political heroes than any other American statesman of the first
class. He died at the opening of the Civil War. It proved to be
a revolution which wrought deep changes in the character of the
people. It was the beginning of a new era in our national life.
We are in constant danger of missing the real worth of men in these
ante-bellum years because their modes of thought and feeling were
not those of this generation.

The Civil War, with its storm of passion, banished from our minds
the great men and gigantic struggles of the preceding decade. We
turned with scornful impatience from the pitiful and abortive
compromises of those times, the puerile attempts to cure by futile
plasters the cancer that was eating the vitals of the nation. We
hastily concluded that men who belonged to the party of Jefferson
Davis and Judah P. Benjamin during those critical years were of
doubtful loyalty and questionable patriotism, that men who battled
with Lincoln, Seward and Chase could hardly be true-hearted
lovers of their country. Douglas died too soon to make clear to a
passion-stirred world that he was as warmly attached to the Union,
as intensely loyal, as devotedly patriotic, as Lincoln himself.

The grave questions arising from the War, which disturbed our politics
for twenty years, the great economic questions which have agitated
us for the past fifteen years, bear slight relation to those dark
problems with which Douglas and his contemporaries grappled. He
was on the wrong side of many struggles preliminary to the War.
He was not a profound student of political economy, hence is not
an authority for any party in the perplexing questions of recent
times. The result is that the greatest political leader of the
most momentous decade of our history is less known to us than any
second-rate hero of the Revolution.

It is not of much importance now to any one whether Douglas is loved
or hated, admired or despised. It is of some importance that he
be understood.

I have derived this narrative mainly from original sources. The
biography written during his life-time by his friend Sheahan, and
that published two years after his death by his admirer, Flint,
are chiefly drawn on for the brief account of his early life.
The history of his career in Congress has been gathered from the
Congressional record; the account of Conventions from contemporary
reports, and the Debates with Lincoln from the authorized publication.

I have not consciously taken any liberty with any text quoted,
except to omit superfluous words, which omissions are indicated by
asterisks. I have not attempted to pronounce judgement on Douglas
or his contemporaries, but to submit the evidence. Not those who
write, but those who read, pass final judgement on the heroes of

Chapter I. Youth.

Stephen Arnold Douglas was born at Brandon, Vermont, on the 23rd
of April, 1813. His father was a physician, descended from Scotch
ancestors, who had settled in Connecticut before the Revolution.
his mother was the daughter of a prosperous Vermont farmer. Before
he was three months old his father, whose only fortune was his
practice, suddenly died. A bachelor brother of the widow took
the family to his home near Brandon, where they lived for fifteen
years. When not needed at more important work Stephen attended
the common school. but the serious business of life was tilling
his uncle's fields.

At fifteen he sought help to prepare for college. His uncle declined
to assume the burden of his education and advised him to shun the
perils of professional life and adopt the safe and honorable career
of a farmer. The advice was rejected and he obtained permission
to earn his way and shape his future. He walked to Middlebury, a
distance of fourteen miles, and apprenticed himself to a cabinet
maker. He worked with energy and enthusiasm, became a good mechanic
and bade fair to win success at his trade, but owning to delicate
health he abandoned the shop after less than two years' service,
and entered the academy at Brandon, where he pursued his studies
for about a year, when his mother married again and moved to
Canandiagua, New York. He there entered an academy and continued
an industrious student for nearly three years, devoting part of his
time to law study. This ended his preliminary training. He quit
the schools and applied himself to the work of practical life.

In June, 1833, he left home to push his fortune in the West. His
health was delicate, his stock of money scant. He went to Cleveland,
Ohio, where he became acquainted with a lawyer named Andrews, who,
pleased with the appearance of the youth, invited him to share his
office and use his library, with the promise of a partnership when
admitted to the bar. The offer was accepted and he began his duties
as law clerk. A week later he was taken seriously sick, and at
the end of his long illness the doctors advised him to return home.
He rejected the advice and in October took passage on a canal boat
for Portsmouth, on the Ohio river, and went thence to Cincinnati.
For a week he sought employment. Unable to find it he went to
Louisville, where another week was spent in vain quest of work.
He continued his journey to St. Louis, where he landed in the late
autumn. An eminent lawyer offered him free use of his library,
but an empty purse compelled him to decline the offer and seek
immediate work. He went to Jacksonville, Illinois, arriving late
in November, and addressed himself to the pressing problem of
self-support. The remnant of his cash amount to thirty-seven cents.

Chapter II. Apprenticeship.

In those days Illinois was a frontier State with about 200,000
population, chiefly settled in its southern half. A large part of
the people were from the South and, in defiance of the law, owned
many negro slaves. The Capital was at Vandalia, although Jacksonville
and Springfield were the towns of highest promise and brightest
prospects. Chicago contained a few score of people to whom the
Indians were still uncomfortably close neighbors. Railroads and
canals were beginning to be built, with promise of closer relations
between the villages and settlements theretofore lost in the

Finding no employment at Jacksonville, he sold his few books to
keep off hunger and walked to Winchester. On the morning after
his arrival he found a crowd assembled on the street where a public
sale was about to open. Delay was occasioned by the want of a
competent clerk and he was hired for two dollars a day to keep the
record of the sale. He was then employed to teach a private school
in the town at a salary of forty dollars a month. Besides teaching
he found time to read a few borrowed law books and try an occasional
case before the village justice.

Having been admitted to the bar in March, 1834, he opened a law
office at Jacksonville. His professional career, though successful,
was so completely eclipsed by the brilliancy of his political
achievements that it need not detain us. The readiness and agility
of his mind; the adaptability of his convictions to the demands
of the hour; his self-confident energy, were such that he speedily
developed into a good trial lawyer and won high standing at the
bar. That the profession was not then as lucrative as it has since
become, is evidenced by the fact that he traveled from Springfield
to Bloomington and argued a case for a fee of five dollars.

But his time and energy were devoted to politics rather than law.
The strategy of parties interested him more than Coke or Justinian.
Jacksonville was a conservative, religious town, whose population
consisted chiefly of New England Puritans and Whigs. But the
prairies were settled by a race of thoroughly Democratic pioneers
to whom the rough victor at New Orleans was a hero in war and a
master in statecraft.

Douglas was an enthusiastic Democrat and an ardent admirer of
President Jackson. The favorite occupation of the young lawyer,
not yet harassed by clients, was to talk politics to the farmers,
or gather them into his half furnished office and discuss more
gravely the questions of party management.

A few days after his arrival the opportunity came to distinguish
himself in the field of his future achievements. A mass meeting was
called at the court house for the purpose of endorsing the policy
of the President in removing the deposits of public money from the
United States bank and vetoing the bill for its recharter. The
opposition was bitter. In the state of public temper it was a
delicate task to present the resolutions. The man who had undertaken
it lost courage at the sight of the multitude and handed them to
Douglas, and the crowd looked with amused surprise when the young
stranger, who was only five feet tall, appeared on the platform. He
read the resolutions of endorsement and supported them in a brief

When he sat down, Josiah Lamborn, an old and distinguished lawyer
and politician, attacked him and the resolutions in a speech
of caustic severity. Douglas rose to reply. The people cheered
the plucky youngster. The attack had sharpened the faculties
and awakened his fighting courage. He had unexpectedly found the
field of action in which he was destined to become an incomparable
master. For an hour he poured out an impassioned harangue, without
embarrassment or hesitation. Astonishment at what seemed a quaint
freak soon gave way to respect and admiration, and at the close
of this remarkable address the hall and courtyard rang with loud
applause. The excited crowed seized the little orator, lifted him
on their shoulders and bore him in triumph around the square.

The young adventurer in the fields of law and politics was thenceforth
a man of mark--a man to be reckoned with in Illinois. There were
scores of better lawyers and more eminent politicians in the State,
but a real leader, a genuine master of men had appeared.

In January, 1835, the legislature met at Vandalia. Early in the
session it elected Douglas State's Attorney of the First Judicial
District--an extraordinary tribute to the professional or political
ability of the young lawyer of less than a year's standing. He
held the office a little more than a year and resigned to enter
the legislature.

This was a really memorable body. Among its members were James
Shields, afterwards United States Senator, John Calhoun of Lecompton
fame, W. A. Richardson, afterwards Democratic leader in the House
of Representatives, John A. McClernand, destined also to distinguish
service in Congress and still more distinguished service as a major
general and rival in arms of Grant and Sherman, Abraham Lincoln,
an awkward young lawyer, from Springfield, and Douglas, whose fate
it was to give Lincoln his first national prominence and then sink
eclipsed by the rising glory of his great rival. The only memorable
work of the session was the removal of the Capital from Vandalia
to Springfield, and the authorization of twelve millions of debt,
to be contracted for government improvements.

Douglas, who had opposed these extravagant appropriations, having
distinguished himself as a debater, an organizer and a leader, was,
a few days after the adjournment, appointed Register of the United
States Land Office at Springfield, to which place he at once removed.

In the following November he was nominated for Congress. The
district, which included the entire northern part of the State,
was large enough for an empire, with sparse population and wretched
means of communication. The campaign lasted nine months, during
which, having resigned the office of the Register, he devoted himself
to the task of riding over the prairies, interviewing the voters
and speaking in school houses and village halls. The monotony was
relieved by the society of the rival candidate, John T. Stuart,
who as Lincoln's law partner. Stuart was declared elected by a
doubtful majority of five, and Douglas, after soothing his wounded
feelings by apparently well founded charges of an unfair count and
threats of a contest, abandoned it in disgust and returned to his
law office. He announced his determination to quit politics forever.

But in December, 1838, the legislature began a session at the old
Capital. The Governor declared the office of Secretary of State
vacant and appointed John A. McClernand to fill it. Field, the
incumbent, questioned the power of the Governor to remove him and
declined to surrender the office. Quo warranto proceedings were
instituted by McClernand, with Douglas and others as counsel. The
Supreme Court denied the Governor's power of removal. The Court
became involved in the partisan battle which raged with genuine
Western fervor for two years.

In the early weeks of 1841, a bill was passed, reorganizing the
Judiciary, providing for the election by the legislature of five
additional Supreme Judges, and imposing the duties of trial Judges
upon the members of the Court. Meanwhile, Field had grown weary of
the struggle with a hostile Governor and legislature, and, being
threatened with a sweeping change of the Court, resigned in January,
1841. The Governor appointed Douglas his successor. Five weeks
later the legislature chose him Justice of the Supreme Court and
presiding Judge of the Fifth District. He resigned the office of
Secretary and began his judicial career, establishing his residence
at Quincy.

This appointment to the bench was one of the most fortunate incidents
in his busy and feverish life. He was not twenty-eight years old.
Adroit, nimble-witted and irrepressibly energetic as he was, he
had not yet developed much solid strength. His stock of knowledge
was scanty and superficial. From force of circumstances he
had devoted little time to calm thought or serious study. Early
convinced that all truth lay on the surface, patent to him who had
eyes to see, he had plunged into the storm of life and, by his
aggressive and overmastering energy, had conquered a place for
himself in the world. He was an experienced politician, a famous
campaign orator, and a Justice of the Supreme Court at a period
when most boys are awkwardly finding their way into the activities
of the world. The younger Pitt was Chancellor of the Exchequer
at twenty-three; but he was the son of Chatham, nurtured in
statesmanship from the cradle. the younger Adams was Minister to
the Hague at twenty-five; but he was already a ripe scholar and heir
to his father's great fame. Douglas was a penniless adventurer, a
novus homo, with none of those accidents of fortune which sometimes
give early success to gifted men.

The opportunity afforded the young Judge to extend his knowledge
and mingle on terms of equality with the masters of his profession
was such as rarely falls to the lot of a half-educated man of
twenty-eight. He did not become an eminent Judge, yet he left the
bench, after three years' service, with marked improvement in the
solidity and dignity of his character.

Chapter III. Member of Congress.

The legislature met in December, 1842, to chose a Senator. Douglas
still lacked six months of the thirty years required, but came
within five votes of the election.

In the following spring he received the Democratic nomination for
Congress and resigned his judgeship to enter the campaign. The
District included eleven large counties in the western part of the
State. O. H. Browning of Quincy, a lawyer of ability, destined to
a distinguished political career and to succeed to Douglas' vacant
seat in the Senate twenty years later, was the Whig candidate.
They held a long series of joint discussions, addressed scores of
audiences and so exhausted themselves that both were prostrated
with serious sickness after the campaign. The questions discussed
are as completely obsolete as the political issues of the
ante-diluvians. Douglas was elected by a small majority.

He was in Washington at the opening of Congress and entered upon
his eventful and brilliant career on that elevated theatre, though
he was as yet only the crude material out of which a statesman
might be evolved. He was a vigorous, pushing Western politician,
with half developed faculties and vague, unlimited ambition, whose
early congressional service gave small promise of the great leader
of after years.

The famous description of him contained in the Adams diary relates
to this period of his life. The venerable ex-President, then
a Member of the House, mentions him as the homunculus Douglas and
with acrid malevolence describes him as raving out his hour in
abusive invectives, his face convulsed, his gesticulation frantic,
and lashing himself into such heat that if his body had been made
of combustible matter it would have burned out.

"In the midst of his roaring," he declares, "to save himself from
choking, he stripped off and cast away his cravat, unbuttoned his
waistcoat and had the air and aspect of a half-naked pugilist."
With all its extravagance and exaggeration, it is impossible to
doubt the substantial truth of this charicature. Adams did not
live to see the young Member become the most powerful debater, the
most accomplished political leader and most influential statesman
of the great and stirring period that ensued.

The time was strange, as difficult of comprehension to the generation
that has grown up since the War as the England of Hengist and Horsa
is to the modern Cockney, or the Rome of Tiberius to the present
inhabitant of the Palentine Hill. Only sixty years have passed, but
with them has passed away civilization, with its modes of thought
and sentiment, its ethics and its politics. The country had
but one fifth of its present population. A third of our area was
still held by Mexico. Wealth was as yet the poet's dream or the
philosopher's night-mare. Commerce was a subordinate factor in
our civilization. Agriculture was the occupation of the people
and the source of wealth. Cotton was king not only in the field
of business, but in that of politics. The world still maintained
its attitude of patronizing condescension or haughty contempt toward
the dubious experiment of "broad and rampant democracy." Dickens
had just written his shallow twaddle about Yankee crudeness and
folly. Macaulay was soon to tell us that our Constitution was "all
sail and no anchor." DeTocqueville had but recently published his
appreciative estimate of the New World civilization. Americans knew
they had less admiration than they claimed and had lurking doubts
that there was some ground for the ill-concealed contempt of the Old
World toward the swaggering giant of the New, and a fixed resolve
to proclaim their supreme greatness with an energy and persistence
that would drown the sneers of all Europe. It was a time of
egotism, bluster and brag in our relation to the foreign world, and
of truckling submission in our home politics to a dominant power,
long since so completely whirled away by the storm of revolution,
that it is hard to realize that half a century ago the strongest
bowed to its will.

Douglas was in no sense a reformer or the preacher of a crusade.
He was ready to cheerfully accept the ethics of the time without
criticism or question. Political morality was at its nadir.
The dominant power of slavery was not alone responsible for this
depravity. The country was isolated from the world and little
influenced by foreign thought. Its energies were devoted to material
aggrandizement, to the conquest of Nature on a gigantic scale, to
the acquisition of wealth. Since the settlement of the Constitution
moral problems had dropped out of political life and the great
passions of the heroic age had died away. Education was superficial.
Religion was emotional and spasmodic. Business ethics was low.

Party politics was in a chaotic condition. The Whig organization
was not in any proper sense a party at all. It was an ill-assorted
aggregation of political elements, without common opinions or united
purposes, whose only proper function was opposition. It was so
utterly incoherent, its convictions so vague and negative, that it
was unable even to draft a platform. Without any formal declaration
of principles or purposes it had nominated and elected Harrison
and Tyler, one a distinguished soldier and respectable Western
politician, the other a renegade Virginia Democrat, whose Whiggism
consisted solely of a temporary quarrel with his own party. The
one unanimous opinion of the party was that it was better for
themselves, if not for the country, that the Whigs should hold
the offices. The Democrats had been in control of the Government
for forty years. Their professed principles were still broadly
Jeffersonian. Their platform consisted mainly of a denial of all
power in the Federal Government to do anything or prevent anything,
the extravagant negations borrowed from the republican philosophers
of England and the French Revolutionists.

But a half century of power had produced a marked diversion
of practice from principles, and, in spite of its open abnegation
of power, the Government had become a personal despotism under
Jackson, which had vainly struggled to perpetuate itself through
the Administration of VanBuren. But notwithstanding the absurd
discrepancy of their practical and theoretical politics, the
Democrats had one great advantage over the Whigs in having a large
and influential body of men united in interest, compelled to defend
themselves against aggression, prepared unflinchingly to take the
initiative, to whom politics was not a philosophic theory but a
serious matter of business.

The slave-holding aristocracy of the South was the only united,
organized, positive political force in the country. With the
personal tastes of aristocrats and the domestic habits of despots,
they were staunchly Democratic in their politics and had full control
of the party. They had positive purposes and aggressive courage.
A crisis had come which they only had the ability and energy to
meet. The control of affairs was in the hands of the timid Whigs.
Decisive measures were needed. By a peaceful revolution they seized
the Government out of the hands of the Whigs in the midst of the
Administration and embarked on a career of Democratic conquest.

President Tyler, having quarreled with his party, eager to
accomplish something striking in the closing hours of his abortive
Administration, with unseemly haste rushed through the annexation
of Texas under a joint resolution of Congress. Mr. Polk, the new
President, did not hesitate in carrying out the manifest will of
the people and the imperious behest of his party. The South was
clamoring for more territory for the extension of slavery. The West
was aggressive and eager for more worlds to conquer. New England,
impelled by hatred of slavery and jealousy of the rising importance
of the West, opposed the entire project and earnestly protested
against annexation.

In the feverish dreams of the slavery propagandists rose chimerical
projects of conquest and expansion at which a Caesar or an Alexander
would have stood aghast. Mexico and Central America were contemplated
as possible additions to the magnificent slave empire which they
saw rising out of the mists of the future. They began to talk of
the Caribbean Sea as an inland lake, of Cuba and the West Indies
as outlying dependencies, of the Pacific as their western coast,
and of the States that should thereafter be carved out of South
America. The enduring foundation of this tropical empire was to
be African slavery, and the governing power was to rest permanently
in the hands of a cultured aristocracy of slave-holders. The people
of the North-Atlantic States and heir descendents in the Northwest,
who churlishly held aloof from these intoxicating dreams, were to
be treated with generous justice and permitted to go in peace or
continue a minor adjunct of the great aristocratic Republic. Already
the irrepressible conflict had begun.

Douglas heartily accepted the plans of his party. He was by
temperament an ardent expansionist, a firm believer in the manifest
destiny of his country to rule the Western Continent, a pronounced
type of exuberant young Americanism. He was an unflinching partisan
seeking to establish himself in the higher councils of his party,
which was committed to this scheme of conquest. On May 13th,
1846, he delivered in the House a speech, in which he defended the
course of the Administration in regard to the Mexican War and, in
a spirited colloquy, instructed the venerable John Quincy Adams in
the principles of international law. He based his defense of the
war upon the treaty with Santa Anna recognizing the independence
of Texas. Adams suggested that at the time of its execution Santa
Anna was a prisoner incapable of making a treaty. Douglas insisted
that, even though a captive, he was a de facto government whose
acts were binding upon the country, and to establish his proposition
cited the case of Cromwell who, during his successful usurpation,
bound England by many important treaties. The niceties of international
law were not very punctiliously observed. His arguments were warmly
received by men already resolved on a career of conquest.

The war was a romantic military excursion through the heart of
Mexico. There were battles between the triumphant invaders and
the demoralized natives, which were believed entitled to rank among
the supreme achievements of genius and courage. Americans had not
yet acquired that deep knowledge of carnage, those stern conceptions
of war, which they were destined soon to gain. Military glory and
imperial conquest have rarely been so cheaply won. The war gave
enduring fame to the commanding generals and shed a real luster
over the lives of thousands of men.

The material results were stupendous. We acquired nearly twelve
hundred thousand square miles of territory--a region one-third larger
than the area of the United States at the close of the Revolution.
The extravagant dream of making the Pacific the western boundary
of the Republic was realized and no one seriously doubted that this
vast domain was surrendered to slavery.

Chapter IV. The Compromise of 1850.

Douglas served two terms in the House and was again elected in
1846, but in January following was chosen Senator, taking his seat
on March 4th, 1847. In April following he married Martha Denny
Martin, daughter of a wealthy North Carolina planter and slave-owner.

The Senate, during the early years of his service, was in its
intellectual gifts altogether the most extraordinary body ever
assembled in the United States. Rarely, if ever, in the history of
the world, have so many men of remarkable endowment, high training
and masterful energy been gathered in a single assembly. It was the
period when the generation of Webster, Clay and Calhoun overlapped
that of Seward, Chase and Sumner, when the men who had set at the
feet of the Revolutionary Fathers and had striven to settle the
interpretation of the Constitution met the men who were destined
to guide the Nation through the Civil War and settle the perplexing
questions arising from it.

Webster was now an old man, his face deep lined with care,
disappointment and dissipation. Though sixty-eight years old and
the greatest orator of the century, his heart was still consumed
with unquenchable thirst of the honor of succeeding John Tyler
and James K. Polk. Calhoun, now sixty-five years old, a ghastly
physical wreck, still represented South Carolina and dismally
speculated on the prospect of surviving the outgrown Union. Cass,
equal in years with Calhoun, still held his seat in the Senate and
cherished the delusive hope of yet reaching the Presidency. Benton
was closing his fifth and last term in the Senate, and Clay, the
knightly leader of the trimming Whigs, though now in temporary
retirement, was soon to return and resume his old leadership.

Within the first four years of Douglas' service, Salmon P. Chase,
William H. Seward and Charles Sumner made their appearance in the
Senate. A new generation of giants seemed providentially supplied
as the old neared the end of their service. Douglas, though serving
with both these groups of statesmen, belonged to neither. Running
his career side by side with the later school of political leaders
and sharing in the great struggles on which their fame, in large
part, rests, his character and ideals were those of the older

The questions confronting Congress were of transcendent interest
and incalculable importance. A sudden and astounding expansion had
occurred, calling for the highest, wisest and most disinterested
statesmanship in providing governments for the newly acquired
domain. A million and a half miles of new territory, extending
through sixteen degrees of latitude, was now to be organized; the
future destiny of this vast territory, and indirectly that of free
institutions generally, was supposed to depend on the decision of
Congress. Above all, the fate of the American apple of discord,
human slavery, was understood to be involved in the construction
of territorial and State governments for these new possessions. It
was deemed by the South indispensable to the safety and permanence
of slavery to plant it in them.

For that half-disguised purpose they had been acquired at great
expense of blood and money. New States, it was hoped, might now be
created south of the line below which slavery flourished, balancing
those to be admitted from the growing Northwest. Thus far the
adventurous West had powerfully supported the South in its schemes
of conquest, but had no sympathy with slavery. The old North,
thought ready to submit to its continued existence in the States
where already established, was implacably hostile to its further

It was not a question of ethics or of sober statesmanship, but one
of practical politics, that divided the North and the South at this
period. Each hoped to secure for itself the alliance and sympathy
of the new States thereafter admitted. Each applied itself to the
task of shaping the Territories and moulding the future States to
serve its ulterior views.

When Congress attempted to organize territorial governments,
the people of the North insisted on the exclusion of slavery from
Oregon and the territory acquired from Mexico. The people of the
South made no resistance to its exclusion from Oregon. It was
already excluded by "the ordinance of Nature or the will of God."
But that the vast territory torn from Mexico, acquired by the common
blood and treasure, should now be closed to their institution, was
intolerable. To secure it they had sinned deep. After the conquest
their position was peculiarly awkward. The laws of Mexico excluding
slavery continued in force. Hence in all this territory slavery
was as effectually prohibited as in Massachusetts until Congress
could accomplish the odious work of introducing it by express
enactment. Calhoun strenuously argued the novel proposition that,
on the overthrow of the authority of the Mexican government by
American arms, the laws and constitution of Mexico were extinguished
and those of the United States, so far as applicable, occupied the
vacant field; that the Federal Constitution carried slavery with
it wherever it went, except where by the laws of a sovereign State
it was excluded.

He announced the proposition afterwards established by the Supreme
Court, that, as the Constitution proprio vigore carried slavery
into all the Territories, neither the territorial legislatures nor
Congress itself had power to interfere with the right of holding
slaves within them.

Webster conclusively answered this refined sophistry, pointing
out that slavery was merely a municipal institution, in derogation
of the common right of mankind, against the native instincts of
humanity, dependent wholly for its right of existence upon local
legislation, and that the real demand of the people of the South
was not to carry their slaves into the new Territories, but to
carry with them the slave codes of their several States.

While the venerable leaders who had ruled Congress and swayed public
opinion for thirty years were uttering philosophic disquisitions
on constitutional law or the ethics of slavery, Douglas had with
practical sagacity offered an amendment to the Oregon bill, extending
the line of the Missouri Compromise to the Pacific. This would not
decide the great moral question between those who believed slavery
an unmixed good and those who believed it the sum of all villainies.
But he thought that moral ideas had no place in politics. It would
not decide the great question of constitutional law between those
who, like Calhoun, believed slavery the creature of the Federal
Constitution, and those, who, like Webster, believed it the creature
of local municipal law. But it promised a temporary respite to
the vexed question. He had already, in the House, advocated the
extension of this line through the Western Territories. He believed
that adhesion to this venerable Compromise, now as sacred as the
Constitution itself, was the hope of the future and succeeded in
persuading the Senate to adopt his amendment as the final solution
of the vexed problem. It was rejected in the House and the question
indefinitely postponed.

In the Territories, meanwhile, events moved fast. While Congress
had been wrangling over the new possessions, gold was discovered
in California. A tumultuous rush of people, unparalleled since the
Crusades, at once began by all routes from every region to the new
El Dorado. More than 80,000 settlers arrived in 1849. A spontaneous
movement of the people resulted in a Constitutional Convention,
which met at Monterey on September 3d of that year, and adopted a
Constitution which forever prohibited slavery. It was submitted
to a vote and adopted in November.

Congress met on December 3d and resumed the Sisyphean labors of the
last session. Douglas was chairman of the Committee on Territories,
to which were referred all measures affecting the recent
acquisitions--altogether the most momentous of the session--which
stirred the deepest passions of Congress and held the keenest attention
of the people. In the early days of December he submitted to his
Committee two bills. One provided for the immediate admission
of California; the other for the establishment of governments for
Utah and New Mexico and the adjustment of the Texas boundary. On
March 25th they were reported to the Senate. Meanwhile Taylor,
in a special message, had recommended the immediate admission of
California. Senator Mason had introduced a bill providing more
effective means for the summary return of fugitive slaves, in
effect converting the population of the free States into a posse
comitatus charged with the duty of hunting down the fugitive sand
returning him to bondage. The clash of arms had begun. Both sides
were passionately in earnest and resolved to encounter the utmost
extremity rather than yield. The Democrats had a small majority
in the Senate, while in the House neither party had a majority.

The Free Soilers held the balance of power, but by a refusal
to cooperate with the conservative opponents of slavery extension
left the control of the House in the hands of the Democrats. The
chief business of the early weeks of the session was the delivery
of defiant speeches and the presentation of resolutions defining
the opinions of various segments of distracted parties and revealing
the chasm that was opening between the friends and opponents of

On the 21st of January the rival Whig chiefs of the Senate held
a confidential conference. Clay submitted a plan of compromise
covering the whole field of controversy. Webster promised his
cordial support. A week later Clay presented the first draft of
his famous slavery Compromise. He was under the sincere illusion
that he had been spared by Providence that he might save his country
in this great exigency and that his bill would secure long years
of peace and harmony. At least, as many of them were old men, it
would postpone the evil day until they had been safely gathered to
their fathers, and, according to the political morals of the age,
the next generation must take care of itself. Douglas moved to refer
the resolutions to the Committee on Territories; but, on motion of
Foote of Mississippi, they were referred to a select Committee of
Thirteen, consisting of three Northern Whigs, three Southern Whigs,
three Southern and three Northern Democrats, with Clay as chairman.
Douglas was not on this Committee. It was composed of old Senators
whose established reputations were expected to give credit to any
proposition of compromise.

On May 8th the Committee reported, recommending the immediate admission
of California, the establishment of territorial governments in New
Mexico and Utah with no mention of the slavery question, the settlement
of the Texas boundary dispute and the enactment of a law providing
for the more effectual return of fugitive slaves. Substantially
it was Douglas' two bills joined together, with Mason's Fugitive
Slave bill annexed. It was a mass of unrelated measures, jumbled
together for the illegitimate purpose of compelling support of the
whole from friends of the several parts.

Clay spoke for two days in support of his great masterpiece of
compromising statesmanship. He insisted that it should be accepted
by all for the reason that "neither party made any concession
of principle, but only of feeling and sentiment," and ingeniously
sought to soothe the anger of the North by the assurance that the
principle of popular sovereignty embodied in the bill was not only
eminently just and in harmony with the spirit of our institutions
but entirely harmless, inasmuch as the North had Nature on its
side, facts on its side and the truth staring it in the face that
there was no slavery in the Territories, proving that the law of
Nature was of paramount force.

On March 4th Calhoun attempted to speak, but found himself unable
and handed his speech to Mason who read it for him. He rejected
Clay's Compromise as futile and denied utterly the right of the
inhabitants of a Territory to exclude slavery. He accused the North
of having pursued a course of systematic hostility to Southern
institutions since the close of the Revolution, and cited the
Ordinance of 1787, the Missouri Compromise and the exclusion of
slavery from Oregon as instances of Northern aggression; and now,
he said, the final and fatal act of exclusion was attempted. He
denounced the action of the people of California in organizing a
State without congressional authority as revolutionary and rebellious.
He grimly announced that the South had no concessions to make, even
to save the poor wreck of a once glorious Union. He plainly told
them that if the Union was to be saved the North must save it. It
must open the Territories to slavery. It must surrender fugitive
slaves. It must cease agitating the slavery question. The
Constitution must be amended so as to restore to the South the
power of protecting itself. If they were not willing to do these
acts of justice, nor that the South should depart in peace, let
them say so, that it might know what to do when the question was
reduced to one of submission or resistance.

Three days later Webster delivered his famous 7th of March speech.
He criticized with severity the Northern Democracy for its eager
and officious subserviency to the South throughout the whole
controversy arising out of the Mexican War, hinting that it had
been even more eager to server than the South had been to accept
its service. He said that the Mexican War had been prosecuted for
the purpose of the acquisition of territory for the extension of
slavery, but that the nature of the country had defeated, in large
part, the hopes of the South. He declared that the whole question
of slavery was settled by a higher law than that of Congress and
that there was not then a foot of territory whose status was not
already fixed by the laws of the several States or the decree of
the Almighty; that, by the irrepealable laws of physical geography,
slavery was already excluded from California and New Mexico. He
"would not take pains uselessly to reaffirm an ordinance of Nature,
nor to reenact the will of God." He denounced the Abolitionists
and urged upon the Northern States the duty of faithfully and
energetically enforcing the abhorred Fugitive Slave Law.

Seward, speaking a few days later, insisted that it was their
clear duty to admit California under any Constitution adopted by
it, republican in form, and assured then that had its Constitution
permitted slavery he would still have deemed it his duty to vote
for its admission. He protested against the Fugitive Slave Law as
necessarily nugatory and utterly impossible of execution because
unanimously condemned by the public sentiment of the North. In
answer to the crushing argument that the Constitution carried
slavery into the Territories and that cheerful obedience must be
yielded to the supreme law, he announced the startling doctrine
that there was a HIGHER LAW than the Constitution, to which their
first duty was due; that slavery was a violation of this HIGHER
LAW and hence the Constitution itself was powerless to establish
it in the Territories.

On the 13th and 14th Douglas spoke. The speech was able and
adroit. It was marred by the introduction of party-politics into
a discussion of such gravity. He was always prone to lapse from
statesmanlike dignity to the level of the politician and viewed
most matters primarily in their relation to he transient questions
of party politics. He undertook the ambitious task of replying
to the speeches of Webster, Seward, and Calhoun. He repelled the
charge made by Webster that the Northern Democracy had surrendered
to the slave power in supporting the annexation of Texas and the
Mexican War, declaring that they had supported those measures from
patriotic motives, and that he was "one of those Northern Democrats
who supported annexation with all the zeal of his nature." "With
a touch of the Northwest--the Northwestern Democracy," sneered
Webster, who contemptuously looked upon him as a crude blustering
youth from the far West. But Webster, whose contempt for his coarse
taste was justified, had misjudged his resources and power.

"Yes, sir," replied Douglas, "I am glad to hear the Senator say
'With a touch of the Northwest'; I thank him for the distinction. We
have heard so much talk about the North and South, as if those two
sections were the only ones necessary to be taken into consideration
* * * that I am gratified to find that there are those who appreciate
the important truth that there is a power in this Nation, greater
than either the North or the South--a growing, increasing,
swelling power, that will be able to speak the law to this Nation
and to execute the law as spoken. That power is the country known
as the great West, the Valley of the Mississippi, one and indivisible
from the Gulf to the Great Lakes, stretching on the ones side and
the other to the extreme sources of the Ohio and the Missouri--from
the Alleghenies to the Rocky Mountains.

"There, sir, is the hope of this Nation, the resting-place of the
power that is not only to control but to save the Union. We furnish
the water that makes the Mississippi and we intend to follow,
navigate and use it until it loses itself in the briny ocean. So
with the St. Lawrence. We intend to keep open and enjoy both of
these great outlets to the ocean, and all between them we intend
to take under our especial protection and keep and preserve as one
free, happy, and united people. This is the mission of the great
Mississippi Valley, the heart and soul of the Nation and the
continent. We know the responsibilities that devolve upon us, and
our people will show themselves equal to them. We indulge in no
ultraism, no sectional strifes, no crusades against the North and
the South. * * * We are prepared to fulfill all our obligations under
the Constitution as it is, and determined to maintain and preserve
it inviolate in its letter and spirit. Such is the position, the
destiny and purpose of the great Northwest."

He told Webster that, according to the doctrine of his 7th of March
speech, to permit Texas to be divided into several States would be
harmless, because slavery was excluded from a large part of it by
the ordinance of Nature, the will of God. He taunted him for not
having discovered his now celebrated principle of the ordinance of
Nature and will of God until after Taylor's election, and reminded
him that prior to the election Cass and Buchanan, the recognized
heads of the Democratic party, had advocated leaving the question
to the decision of the settlers in the Territories or, in other
words, leaving the ordinance of Nature and will of God to manifest
themselves. But Webster had then opposed Cass' election and
denounced his doctrines and proposed policies. The Whigs, having
run counter to the overwhelming popular sentiment in their unpatriotic
opposition to the Mexican War, found themselves ruined. They chose
a distinguished soldier of that war President, and hoped to rally
by adopting this Democratic doctrine.

He accused Seward of carrying New York for the Whigs in the late
election by assuring them that Taylor, though a slave-holder, would
approve the legislative monstrosity known as the Wilmot proviso,
excluding slavery forever from the new Territories. But Taylor
had ignored Seward's promise. New York's vote had elected Taylor
and a few weeks later Seward was chosen Senator. Taylor was made
President and Seward Senator by the latter's successful fraud.

Calhoun's charge of Northern aggression and encroachment he met
with a sweeping denial. Neither the North nor the South as such
had any right in the Territories, but all the people of the States
had equal rights there. The Ordinance of 1787, denounced by Calhoun
as a Northern aggression on Southern rights, was voted for by every
Southern State. That Ordinance did not, in fact, exclude the South,
or even slavery, from the Northwest Territory. A majority of the
settlers in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois were from the South. Slavery
had actually existed in Indiana and Illinois and had but recently
disappeared. The Missouri Compromise was not an act of Northern
aggression, but was passed by a united South which had made repeated
efforts to extend it to the Pacific. The exclusion of slavery from
Oregon was not an act of Northern aggression, but the work of the
settlers during the period of joint occupancy under the treaty with
Great Britain, and should be accepted by the anti-slavery agitators
as proof of the wisdom of popular sovereignty. the objection that
the people of the South were forbidden to emigrate with their property
to the new Territories was simply a complaint that they could not
carry the laws of their States with them, but must be governed by
the laws of their new domicile. Calhoun's project of maintaining
an equilibrium between free and slave States or of compelling States
to accept or retain slavery against their will was impossible.

At the organization of the Government twelve of the thirteen States
had slavery. but six of them voluntarily abolished it. Delaware,
Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee would
yet adopt the system of gradual emancipation. Seventeen free States
would soon be formed out of the territory between the Mississippi
and the Pacific. Where would they find slave territory with which
to balance these States? If Texas were divided into five States,
three of them would be free. If Mexico were annexed, twenty of
her twenty-two States would be free by the ordinance of Nature or
the will of God. He urged the duty of promptly providing governments
for the unorganized domain and closed with a graceful tribute to
Clay and the prediction that the Territories would soon be organized,
California admitted and the controversy ended forever.

There were three generically distinct groups of statesmen participating
in this great debate--the aggressive, unyielding men of the South
to whom slavery was dearer than the Union; the temporizing politicians
of the North and the border, with their compromises and concessions,
hoping to save the Union by salving its wounds; and the stern
Puritans of the North, bent on rooting out the sins of the Nation,
through the heavens fell.

The climax of the debate was now past, but it continued to agitate
Congress until the middle of September. President Taylor, who had
exerted his influence against the Compromise, died on July 9th, and
was succeeded by Fillmore, who at once called Webster to the head
of his Cabinet and turned the Executive influence to the support
of the bill. It proved impossible, even with his help, to pass
it as a whole; but after it had gone to wreck its fragments were
gathered up and each of the several bills which were jumbled together
in the "Omnibus" was passed. The great Compromise was accomplished
and the slavery question declared settled forever.

Chapter V. Results of the Fugitive Slave Law.

In 1850 Douglas moved to Chicago, which had become the chief city
of the State.

The people were greatly exasperated by the passage of the Fugitive
Slave Law. The City Council, on October 21st, passed resolutions
harshly condemning the Senators and Representatives from the free
States who had supported it and "those who basely sneaked away from
their seats and thereby evaded the question," classing them with
Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot. This was a personal challenge
to Douglas. It happened that he was absent from the Senate on private
business when the bill was passed. But the charge of evading the
question was grossly unjust.

On the evening of the 22nd a mass meeting was held at the city
hall, attended by a great concourse of angry citizens, who, amid
tumultuous applause, resolved to defy "death, the dungeon and the
grave" in resisting the hated law. Douglas appeared on the platform
and announced that on the following evening he would address the
people in defense of the Fugitive Slave Law and the entire Compromise.
The announcement was received with a storm of hisses and groans.

The next night an enormous multitude gathered to hear him. The
audience was not only sullen but bitterly hostile. After a
contemptuous reference to the resolutions and a brief vindication
of himself against their insinuations, he plunged into the defense
of the law. He insisted that the provision for the return of
fugitive slaves contained in the recent act was analogous to the
general provision of law for the return of fugitives from justice,
and, while abuses of the process might occur and wrong occasionally
inflicted, that was one of the inherent infirmities of human law,
and the same objection could be urged with equal force to all
extradition statutes. While free blacks might be seized in the
North and carried South on the false charge of being fugitives
from service, innocent white men might also be seized in Chicago
and carried to California on the false charge of being fugitives
from justice.

He reminded them that the law of 1850 was substantially a reenactment
of that of 1793, passed by the Revolutionary Fathers, the founders
of the Constitution, and approved by President Washington. He
did not argue, but assumed the justice of the old law; nor did he
allude to the increased ardor of pursuit of fleeing slaves since
their increase in value. He rested his case on the close resemblance
of the letter of the new law to that of the old. He told them that
the duty of returning fugitive slaves was created not by THIS law,
but by the Constitution, and that the real question was not as to
the existence of the duty, but which law performed it most justly
and efficiently.

A listener asked him whether the Constitution was not in violation
of the will of God. He warned them of the danger of that objection,
arising from the difficulty of authentically ascertaining the will
of God. It was not practicable to allow each citizen to determine
it for himself. Hence, certain fundamental principles had been
established as a Constitution, which must be assumed to be in harmony
with it and from which no appeal lay. The Constitution provided
for the return of fugitive slaves. The sacred duty of citizenship
bound them to support it. Appeals to a higher law were impracticable
and a mere evasion of duty.

Read in a the calmer light of after years the effectiveness of this
speech is hard to understand. The literal difference between the
recent act and the law of 1793, was not great. But the difference
between the ethical views of slavery held by the people in 1850
and those held in 1793 was not to be measured. The changes in the
law were vicious and in the opposite direction from the radical
changes in popular sentiment. The specially odious provision of
the new law, distinguishing it from general extradition statutes,
was that forbidding resort to the writ of habeas corpus by the
alleged fugitive at the place where seized. The fugitive from
justice in California seized in Chicago could, on writ of habeas
corpus issued by an Illinois court, have it judicially determined
before his deportation whether the facts charged against him
constituted a crime and whether thee was probable cause to believe
that he had committed it.

Under the new law the Federal Commissioner of the State where the
arrest was made had no power to inquire into the truth or sufficiency
of the charge. He could only determine whether the person arrested
was probably the one who had committed the escape, and must decline
to hear the testimony of the fugitive himself. The fact of escape
was judicially determined in advance, ex parte, in the State from
which it had been made, and the alleged fugitive was remanded to
that State for such further proceedings as its laws might provide
and "no process issued by any Court, Judge, Magistrate or other
person whomsoever" could molest the captor in bearing away his

The speech was adroit, clever and marvelously effective. It
strikingly illustrates the mental habits of the times. It sought
to stem an irresistible moral current with ingenious plausibilities
and appeals to precedent. It treated the question as one of
political expediency. It sounded no moral depths, discussed no
ethical problem, though the country was aflame with moral indignation
and rising passionately against the ethics of the past. It mastered
the audience by its fidelity to literal truth and sent them home
dazed, troubled, doubtful and ashamed. At the close of the speech
resolutions affirming the duty of Congress to pass the Fugitive
Slave Law and that of citizens to obey and support it, and repudiating
those of the Common Council, were presented and unanimously
adopted by the subdued and humbled crowd. On the following night
the Council repealed their offensive resolutions.

Meanwhile the country was enjoying the fruits of the Compromise
and striving to persuade itself that it would endure. The people
earnestly desired to believe that the slavery question was settled
forever. So strong was the wish to be done with it that, but for
the restless ambition of the politicians, the truce might have been
protracted for many years. Permanent peace on the preposterous
condition of maintaining on equipoise between active, aggressive and
hostile forces was, of course, impossible. but it was confidently
expected. Clay, Stephens and fifty-two other Members of the Senate
and House issued a manifesto in January, 1851, in which they
announced that the Compromise was final and, to give their manifesto
the highest solemnity, gravely declared that they would not support
anyone for office who was not in favor of faithfully upholding it.
In the North approval for the Compromise was general and enthusiastic.
It was hoped that money-making would no longer be disturbed by
fanatical agitation of moral questions.

And yet there were murmurs of anger against the detested law. It
was hard to compel the descendents of the Puritans to hunt down the
fleeing slaves when they believed that the curse of God rested on
the institution and that the rights of the fugitive were as sacred as
those of his pursuers. There were outbreaks of defiance, violent
rescues, occasional riots. But resistance was sporadic. The people
were disposed to wash their hands of all responsibility for the
law, to deprecate its existence, but, since it had been pronounced
a final Compromise, to pray that it might prove so. In the South
the general opinion was that the danger was past and that years of
peace were in prospect. Enthusiastic meetings approving the compromise
were held everywhere outside of South Carolina and Mississippi.

While the entire moral victory of the Compromise rested with
the people of the South, they had won nothing substantial but the
Fugitive Slave Law, which was of questionable value. The great
object for which they had conspired, sinned and fought had slipped
from their grasp. California was a free State. New Mexico with
indecent haste had called a Convention, adopted a Constitution
prohibiting slavery, and now demanded admission.

The Compromise, however, bade fair to endure. Fillmore in his
annual message in December said, with perfect truth, that a great
majority of the people sympathized in its spirit and purpose and were
prepared in all respects to sustain it. In Congress an optimistic
feeling prevailed. Clay complacently congratulated the country on
the general acquiescence in the law and said that it had encountered
but little resistance outside of Boston. Douglas assured the
Senate that Illinois in good faith discharged its duty under the
late Act. It was flanked on the east and west by the slave States
of Kentucky and Missouri. It did not intend to become a free negro
colony by offering refuge to the fleeing slaves of neighboring
States and, not relying on the action of the Federal Government
alone for protection, had enacted severe laws of its own to prevent
it. When a Judge in that State he had imposed heavy penalties
on citizens convicted of the offense of harboring fugitives from
service. It was the duty of all citizens to sustain and execute the
law, a duty imposed by patriotism and loyalty to the Constitution.
But there was an organization in the North to evade and resist
the law, with men of talent, genius, energy, daring and desperate
purpose at its head. It was a conspiracy against the Government,
and men occupying seats in the Senate were responsible for the
outrages the Boston mob perpetrated in resistance of the law. The
Abolitionists were arming negroes in the free States and inciting
them to murder anyone who attempted to seize them under the provisions
of the law.

Already he aspired to the Presidency and began to jealously guard
his reputation against the sinister suspicions which in those days
haunted the ambitious statesman. The great problem which then taxed
the ingenuity of the aspiring politician was, how to win the South
without alienating the North, or how to hold the North without losing
the South. Irreconcilable differences of opinion on fundamental
questions, deepening ominously into passionate hostility of sentiment,
were already manifesting themselves. The task of the politician
was to steer his dangerous course between this Scylla and Charybdis.
If he gave color to the suspicion that he even tolerated the growing
anti-slavery sentiment of the North, the South would reject him
with horror. If he espoused too warmly the cause that had become
so dear to the heart of the South, the North, goaded by its
over-sensitive conscience, would spurn him with disgust. In the
existing state of party organization the highest success was not
possible without at least partial reconciliation of these irreconcilable
forces. Northern statesmen could not hope to succeed by brave
appeals to the passions and prejudices of the South, for they would
lose their home constituencies, the worst fatality that can befall
an American politician. They could not hope to succeed by brave
appeals to the earnest convictions of the North, for they had not
yet authority as affirmative rules of political conduct.

The charge of dodging a vote on the Fugitive Slave bill had annoyed
Douglas deeply. Any doubt cast upon his fidelity to the South
in its contest with the rising anti-slavery sentiment would be
disastrous. It was extremely distrustful of Northern politicians
and ready to take alarm on the slightest occasion. When the
session was but three weeks old he spoke, defending himself against
a series of political charges and boasting his partisan virtues in
a way that plainly proclaimed the candidate and savored strongly
of the stump. He explained that he had been called to New York
on urgent private business on the day of the passage of the law
and that on his return he was taken seriously ill and confined to
his bed during the latter part of the session and for weeks after
adjournment. He claimed credit for having written the original
Compromise bills which Clay's Committee joined together with a wafer
and reported as its own. He denied vehemently having favored the
Wilmot Proviso, excluding slavery from all territory acquired from
Mexico, and declared that he had sought to extend the Missouri
Compromise line to the Pacific. He said that the legislature of
Illinois had instructed him to vote for the exclusion of slavery
from the Territories, and that, while he had cast the vote of his
State according to instructions, he had protested against it, and
the vote cast was that of the legislature. He regarded the slavery
question as settled forever and had resolved to make no more
speeches on it. He assured them that the Democratic party was as
good a Union party as he wanted, and protested against new tests
of party fidelity and all interpolations of new matter into the
old creed. He conjured them to avoid the slavery question, with
the intimation that, if they did so, it would disappear from Federal
politics forever.

Already the approaching presidential nominations were casting their
shadows over the political arena. Though not yet thirty-nine,
Douglas was as eager for the Democratic nomination as Webster at
seventy was for that of the Whigs.

His picturesque youthfulness, energy and aggressiveness, so
strikingly in contrast with the old age, conservatism and timidity
of the generation of statesmen with whom he now came in competition,
aroused to the highest pitch the enthusiasm of the younger Democrats.
It is not impossible that he could have been nominated but for his
own imprudence and that of his counselors, who seem to have been
more richly endowed with enthusiasm than wisdom. To make sure
of getting him before the people in the most dramatic way, and
at an early stage, they brought out in the January number of the
"Democratic Review" a sensational article which immediately gave
him great prominence as a presidential candidate and solidified
against him an opposition which assured his defeat.

This famous article said that a new time was at hand, calling for
new men, sturdy, clear-headed and honest men. The Republic must
have them even if it must seek them in the forests of Virginia or
in the illimitable West. It was necessary to have a more progressive
Democratic Administration than theretofore. The statesmen of a
previous generation, with their antipathies, claims, greatness or
inefficiency, must get out of the way. Age was to be honored, but
senility was pitiable. Statesmen of the old generation were out
of harmony with either the Northern or Southern wing of the party.
Those who were not so were men incapable of grasping the difficulties
of the times, of fathoming its ideas or controlling its policy.
It had been in the power of these superannuated leaders to do
much good; but their unfortunate lack of discreet and progressive
statesmanship had ruined the party. The next nominee for the
Presidency must not be trammeled with ideas belonging to an anterior
age, but a statesman who could bring young blood, young ideas and
young hearts to the councils of the Republic.

"Your mere general," it continued, "whether he can write on
his card the battle-fields of Mexico, or more heroically boast of
his prowess in a militia review; your mere lawyer, trained in the
quiddities of the court, without a political idea beyond a local
election; your mere wire-puller and judicious bottle-holder,
who claims preeminence now on the sole ground that he once played
second fiddle to better men; * * * and above all, your beaten horse,
whether he ran for a previous presidential cup as first or second
or nowhere at all on the ticket, none of these will do. The
Democratic party expects a new man * * * * of sound Democratic
pluck and world-wide ideas to use it on. * * * Let the Baltimore
Convention give to this young generation of America a candidate
and we are content."

The candidate thus presumptuously demanded by "Young America" was,
of course, Douglas. the superannuated statesmen, incapable of
grasping difficulties, trammeled by the ideas of an anterior age
and sinking into pitiable senility, were clearly, Cass, Buchanan
and Marcy. The description of them as the hero of a militia-review,
the mere lawyer with his quiddities, the political wire-puller
playing second fiddle to better men, was so clear that greater
offense could not have resulted from the use of their names.

On June first, 1852, while Congress was still sweltering in the
tropical heat of the Capital, the Democratic Convention met at
Baltimore, and began its five days of debating and balloting. There
was a general belief that the nominee was certain to be elected.
The Whigs in their Compromise measures had given the Democrats
substantially what they wanted. The chief desire of the latter
was to hold fast what they had and secure the administration of
the offices. They proposed no reforms, made no complaint against
the Administration. Their platform endorsed its chief measure. It
pledged the party to the Compromise, including the Fugitive Slave
Act, and to "resist all attempts to renew the agitation of the
slavery question in congress or out of it, under whatever shape or
color the attempt might be made." Like most political platforms,
it was made to win votes, not to announce moral truths; and the
four statesmen who were competing for the nomination believed that
platform best which would offend the fewest prejudices.

The speeches were delivered. the first ballot gave Cass 116, Buchanan
93, Marcy 37 and Douglas 20 votes. Day after day the managers of
the three veteran politicians plotted and counter-plotted and "Young
America" shouted for Douglas. On the fourth day he had risen to
second rank among the candidates, having 91 votes, while Cass had
93. On the fifth day the four distinguished statesmen were dropped
and Franklin Pierce, an inoffensive New Hampshire politician, was

The Whig convention met at Baltimore on June 16th. Already the
Whigs, though in power, were demoralized. Their mission, never
very glorious, was ended. In the North, tinctured with the old
Puritanism and sincere reverence for the primary rights of man,
there was a widely diffused feeling that a party responsible for the
Fugitive Slave Law could be spared without great loss to civilization.

In the South slavery had definitely placed itself under the
protection of the Democratic party as the more reliable, if not the
more subservient, of the two. There was an appropriate funereal
air about the Convention as it struggled with the question of who
should stand on its platform of pitiful negations. The platform
solemnly declared that the Compromise Acts, including the Fugitive
Slave Law, were acquiesced in by the Whig party as a settlement
of the dangerous and exciting questions which they embraced. It
insisted upon the strict enforcement of the Compromise and deprecated
all further agitation of the question thus settled. If further
evidence of the collapse of the party were required, it was furnished
by the attitude and character of the candidates. Fillmore was a
passive candidate. Webster, his Secretary of State, was an eager
competitor. General Scott, though without experience in civil
affairs, was the third candidate and received the nomination.

This was the last serious appearance of the Whig party on the stage
of national politics. The election resulted in the overwhelming
defeat of Scott and the gradual dissolution of the party.

Chapter VI. The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise.

In January, 1853, Mrs. Douglas died. In 1856 he married Miss Adele
Cutts of Washington, a Southern lady of good family.

He was reelected Senator in 1853 without serious opposition. He had
hitherto been one of the most earnest defenders of the sacredness
of the Missouri Compromise. He had strenuously sought to extend
it to the Pacific. In 1848 he had declared it as inviolable as
the Constitution, "canonized in the hearts of the American people
as a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless
enough to disturb." But events had moved fast and he moved with
them, adjusting his opinions to the advancing demands of the dominant
wing of his party.

During half a century the people of the South had been in control
of the Government, but Nature and advancing civilization had been
steadily against them. They had won a brilliant victory in the
Southwest, but found it barren. The only remaining territory in
which they could hope to plant slavery was that stretching westward
from Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota to the borders of Utah and Oregon.
It was wholly unorganized, devoted mainly to Indian reservations.
The plan was to organize this region, embracing the present States
of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and parts
of Colorado and Wyoming, into a Territory to be called Nebraska.
The final contest between freedom and slavery for the possession
of the public domain was now to be waged.

The South was at this time in peculiarly favorable situation. The
right to recover runaway slaves was secured. Both the political
parties had declared in favor of maintaining and faithfully executing
the Compromise. The people of both sections were in favor of
maintaining and faithfully executing the Compromise. The people
of both sections were in favor of standing by their bargain in good
faith, the South enjoying its slavery and the North its freedom in
peace. There is no apparent reason why this could not have lasted
for many years. But the South could not rest easy under the sense
of increasing hostility to slavery and wanted to entrench it more
strongly against assault. It would like more Senators and was ready
to stake everything on the capture of this last territory out of
which new States could be carved.

Congress met for a memorable session on December 5th, 1853. Douglas
was chairman of the Committee on Territories, and his trusted
lieutenant, Richardson, was chairman of the Territorial Committee
of the House. He was thus in position to control the legislation
of deepest importance and greatest political interest. During the
closing days of the last session Richardson had pushed through the
House a bill to organize the Territory of Nebraska. It was reported
to the Senate, referred to the Committee on Territories and Douglas
attempted in vain to hurry it through.

Dodge of Iowa, now introduced in the Senate a bill for the organization
of the Territory which was a copy of the House bill of the last
session. It was referred to the Committee on Territories. Douglas
as chairman on January 4th reported it to the Senate in an altered
form, accompanied by an elaborate report. It provided that when
the Territory or any part of it should be admitted as a State it
should be with or without slavery as its Constitution should provide.
The report justified this non-committal attitude by citing the
similar provisions in the Utah and New Mexico bills. It declared
it a disputed point whether slavery was prohibited in Nebraska by
valid enactment. The constitutional power of Congress to regulate
the domestic affairs of the Territories was doubted. The Committee
declined to discuss the question which was so fiercely contested
in 1850. Congress then refrained from deciding it. The Committee
followed that precedent by neither affirming nor repealing
the Missouri Compromise, nor expressing any opinion as to its
validity. It intimated that in 1850 Congress already doubted its
constitutionality. The Compromise was now doomed. The inventive
genius of the Senate now applied itself to the task of shifting
the odium of its repeal upon the previous Congress.

While this bill was pending in the Senate Douglas was anxiously
scanning the field to ascertain what effect it was producing among
the people. The South was not likely to be duped. If the Missouri
Compromise was in force that alone excluded slavery, and no advantage
could accrue from organizing the new Territory without mention of
the subject. It did not care to take the risk of proving the law
of 1820 invalid. Let it be repealed. But the thought of explicitly
repealing the Missouri Compromise, which he had been wont to declare
inviolably sacred, appalled him. He dreaded its effect in Illinois
and throughout the Puritanical North, where moral ideas were
annoyingly obtrusive. The South, though not demanding the repeal
of the Compromise, would surely welcome it with joy and gratitude.
The question of expediency was a hard one.

The bill, consisting of twenty sections, was printed on January
2d in the Washington Sentinel. Again, on the 10th of January, it
appeared in the same paper with another section added. The new
section provided that the question of slavery during the territorial
period should be left to the inhabitants, that appeals to the Supreme
Court should be allowed in all cases involving title to slaves or
questions of personal freedom, and that the Fugitive Slave Law should
be executed in the Territories as in the States. This remarkable
change in the form and spirit of the bill was explained as resulting
from an error of the copyist, who had omitted this vital section
from it as originally printed.

On the 16th of January Senator Dixon of Kentucky offered an
amendment repealing the Missouri Compromise. The next day Sumner
gave notice of an amendment affirming it. The question could no
longer be dodged. When Dixon's amendment was offered, Douglas,
who was greatly annoyed by it, went to his seat and implored him
to withdraw it. But he refused. He called upon Dixon and took him
for a drive. They talked of the Nebraska bill and the amendment.
The result of the conference was that Douglas said to him: "I
have become perfectly satisfied that it is my duty as a fair minded
national statesman, to cooperate with you as proposed in securing
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise restriction. It is due
to the South; it is due to the Constitution, heretofore palpably
infracted; it is due to that character for consistency which I have
heretofore labored to maintain. The repeal will produce much stir
and commotion in the free States * * * * for a season. I shall be
assailed by demagogues and fanatics there without stint. * * * *
Every opprobrious epithet will be applied to me. I shall probably
be hung in effigy. * * * * I may become permanently odious among
those whose friendship and esteem I have heretofore possessed.
This proceeding may end my political career. But, acting under
the sense of duty which animates me, I am prepared to make the
sacrifice. I will do it."

The bluff Kentuckian was much affected, and with deep emotion
exclaimed: "Sir, I once recognized you as a demagogue, a mere party
manager, selfish and intriguing. I now find you a warm hearted
and sterling patriot. Go forward in the pathway of duty as you
propose, and, though the whole world desert you, I never will."

He had now decided on his course. Cass, who had been forestalled by
his alert rival, was understood to be ready to step into the breach
if Douglas faltered. He was on perilous heights where a false step
would be fatal. Already a storm of opposition was brewing in the
North, which would surely break upon him with fury if he proposed
the repeal. It might fail in the House and thus leave him with
both the North and South angrily condemning him,--the South for
his rashness and the North for his treachery. Pierce was known
to be opposed to the express repeal of the Compromise. On Sunday,
January 22d, Douglas called on the Secretary of War, Jefferson
Davis, explained the proposed change and sought the help of
the Administration in passing the bill. Davis was overjoyed and
at once accompanied him to the White House. Pierce received his
distinguished visitors, discussed the plan with them and promised
his help.

The next morning Douglas offered in the Senate a substitute for
the original Nebraska bill, in which two radical changes appeared.
The new bill divided the proposed Territory, calling the southern
part Kansas and the northern part Nebraska, and declared the Missouri
Compromise superseded by the legislation of 1850 and now inoperative.

On the next day appeared the "Appeal of the Independent Democrats
in Congress to the People of the United States." The paper was
written by Chase and corrected by Sumner. It denounced the original
Kansas-Nebraska bill as a gross violation of a sacred pledge, a
criminal betrayal of precious rights, part of an atrocious plot to
exclude free labor and convert the Territory into a dreary region
of despotism inhabited by masters and slaves, a bold scheme against
American liberty, worthy of an accomplished architect of ruin.
It declared in a postscript, written after the substitute bill
was offered by Douglas on January 23d, that not a man in Congress
or out of it, not even Douglas himself, pretended at the time of
their passage that the measures of 1850 would repeal the Missouri
Compromise. "Will the people," it asked, "permit their dearest
interests to be thus made the mere hazards of a presidential game
and destroyed by false facts and false inferences?"

The Appeal, which (except the postscript) was written before the
substitute was offered, was published in many papers in the North
and produced a deep sensation. On the 30th Douglas entered the
Senate Chamber angry and excited. He had already begun to hear
the distant mutterings of the storm. He opened the debate on his
substituted bill, but he was smarting under the cruel lash and,
before beginning his argument, poured out his rage on the authors
of the Appeal. He accused Chase of treacherously procuring a
postponement of the consideration of the bill for a week in order
to circulate their libel upon him. Chase interrupted him with angry
emphasis. Douglas waxed furious and poured out his "senatorial
billingsgate" upon the offenders. Yet, amidst his wrath, he kept
his head and made a keen and ingenious defense of his course.

The basis of his argument was the proposition, assumed though no
where stated, that while the laws of Congress were specific and
enacted to meet particular demands, the PRINCIPLE embodied in each
law was general, and if the philosophic principle of any law was
repugnant to that of any prior law, however foreign to each other
the subjects might be, the latter must be held to repeal the former
by implication; that the principle of the legislation of 1850 was
repugnant to that of the Missouri Compromise and hence repealed

Chase at once replied briefly to the fiery attack, and on February
3d delivered an elaborate speech against the bill, which Douglas
recognized as the strongest of the session. As a legal argument
it was a complete and crushing answer to the quibbling sophistry
of the advocates of implied repeal. But it was not merely the
argument of a great lawyer. It was the earnest remonstrance of a
moralist who believed in the eternal and immeasurable difference
between right and wrong.

He reminded them that the Missouri Compromise was a Southern measure,
approved by a Southern President, on the advice of a Southern
Cabinet. While in form a law, it had all the moral obligation of
a solemn contract. The considerations for the perpetual exclusion
of slavery in the Territories north of 36 degrees and 30 minutes
were the admission of Missouri with slavery, the permission of
slavery in the Territories south of 36 degrees and 30 minutes, and
the admission of new States south of that line with slavery if their
constitution should so provide. The North had honorably performed
its contract by the admission of Missouri and prompt consent to
the admission of all other slave States that had sought it. The
South had yielded nothing to the North under the contract, except
the admission of Iowa and the organization of Minnesota. The
slave States, having received all the contemplated benefits under
the contract and yielded none, proposed to declare it ended without
the consent of the free States. He closed with an appeal to the
honor of the South, earnestly imploring the Senators to reject the
bill as a violation of the plighted faith and solemn compact which
their fathers had made and which they were bound by every sacred
obligation faithfully to maintain.

Seward, speaking on the 17th cautioned them that the repeal of the
Compromise would be the destruction of the equilibrium between the
North and the South so long maintained, the loss of which would be
the wreck of the Union. He warned the North that if this territory
was surrendered to slavery the South would be vested with permanent
control of the Government; for every branch of it would be securely
within its power. Already it had absolute sway. One slave-holder
in a new Territory, with access to the Executive ear at Washington,
exercised more political influence than five hundred free men.
The recital of an old repeal was made for the demagogic purpose
of confusing the people, but was false in fact and false in law.
The Missouri Compromise was a purely local act. That of 1850 was
likewise local. They affected entirely different localities. Hence
the later law could not by implication repeal the former. It was
an ingenious device to attain the desired end by declaring that
done by a former Congress which no one then thought of doing, and
which the present Congress dared not boldly do. The doctrine of
popular sovereignty meant that the Federal Government should abandon
its constitutional duty and abdicate its power over he Territory
in favor of the first band of squatters who settled within it. It
meant that the interested cupidity of the first chance settlers
was more fit to guide the destinies of the infant Territory than
the collective wisdom of the American people.

Sumner, speaking a week later, declared that they were about to
determine forever the character of a new empire. An effort was
made on false assumptions of fact, in violation of solemn covenants
and the principles of the fathers, to open this immense region to
slavery. The measures of 1850 could not by any effort of interpretation,
by any wand of power, by an perverse alchemy, be transmuted into
a repeal of that prohibition of slavery. The pending proposition
was to abolish freedom. When the conscience of mankind was at last
aroused, they were about to open a new market to the traffickers
in flesh who haunted the shambles of the South. They had as much
right to repudiate the purchase of Louisiana as this compact.
Despite the temporary success of their political maneuvers, let
them not forget that the permanent and irresistible forces were all
arrayed against them. The plough, the steam engine, the railroad,
the telegraph, the book, were all waging war on slavery. Its
opponents could bide the storm of vituperation and calmly await
the judgment of the future.

There was at no time the slightest doubt that the bill would pass,
and the arguments against it were in the nature of protests against
a wrong that could not be averted and appeals to the future to
redress it.

From the beginning it had a well organized majority. But, assailed
by the invectives of Chase, Seward and Sumner, it could not stand
before the world undefended. There was but one man enlisted in
its support at all fit to measure swords with any of these great
leaders; but he was undoubtedly more than a match for them all.

At midnight on March 3rd Douglas rose to close the debate. The
great arguments were delivered; a safe majority was assured. While
numerous Senators still wanted to be heard in support of the bill,
all conceded his right to close and yielded him the floor. The
scenes of that wild night, while he charged upon his foes and stood
for hours at bay like a gladiator, repelling their savage assaults,
are among the most memorable in our congressional history.

He laughed at the charge that his bill had reopened the slavery
question against the will of both political parties, as expressed
in their platforms, and had disturbed the country at a time of
profound tranquility. These men, he declared, who where singing
paeans of praise over the legislation of 1850, were the same men
who had most bitterly opposed it and predicted dire results from
it, just as they were prophesying evil from the pending measure
which simply carried to its legitimate conclusion the beneficent
principle of the former law. The substance of all the opposition
speeches was contained in their manifesto published in January.
Chase in his speech had exhausted the entire argument. The others
merely followed in his tracks.

"You have seen them," he said, "on their winding way, meandering
the narrow and crooked path in Indian file, each treading close
upon the heels of the other, and neither venturing to take a step
to the right or left or to occupy one inch of ground which did not
bear the footprint of the Abolition champion."

The repeal of the Compromise was a mere incident of the bill. He
quoted his speeches in 1850 to show that he then defended the
popular sovereignty principle, also resolutions of the Illinois
legislature approving it. The Committee assumed in reporting
the original bill that the law of 1850 had repealed the Missouri
Compromise and hence did not mention it. Finding a diversity
of opinion and desiring to clear the ground for the unobstructed
operation of the principles of 1850 in all the Territories, they
had expressly recited the repeal. Did not the bill as originally
reported repeal the Missouri Compromise as effectually as the
amended bill did? If so, why this clamor about the amendment? They
denounced the original bill in their manifesto as a repeal of the
Missouri Compromise. If they told the truth in their manifesto their
speeches denouncing the amendment were false. If their speeches
were true their manifesto was false. The Missouri Compromise was
not a compact at all. It was simply a piece of ordinary legislation,
passed like other bills, by means of compromise and concession.
The statement that the North had faithfully performed all the terms
of he alleged contract and, hence, the South was estopped from
repudiating it, was not supported by the evidence. The North had
broken it immediately by resisting the admission of Missouri with
slavery. A resolution of the New York legislature had been passed
a few months after the Compromise instructing their Senators and
Representatives to oppose the admission of Missouri or any other
State unless its Constitution prohibited slavery. Objection being
made to the slavery clause of the Constitution, Missouri had not
been admitted until 1821. The North having broken its alleged
contract, had relieved the South from all obligation under it, if
such obligation ever existed. All this moral indignation had been
stirred up over the repeal of an ordinary law. By their manifesto
and speeches the anti-slavery Senators had roused the people to rage
in their States. The citizens of Ohio had burned him in effigy.
He could be found hanging by the neck in all the towns in which
they had influence.

Chase protested his sorrow that the people of Ohio had offered this
insult. Douglas angrily reminded him of the vituperative epithets
contained in the manifesto, which evidently wounded him more
deeply than the coarser indignities. He drew Seward and Chase into
debate on the literal correctness of details of their arguments, as
to which he had the better of them, having fortified himself with
voluminous documents, and elaborately proved the inaccuracy of
their statements, and elaborately proved the inaccuracy of their
statements, which gave him a brilliant opportunity to indulge
in a burst of indignation and in his wrath at the errors of his
adversaries' neglect, the awkward moral question which, was the
core of the controversy. He intimated that Chase and Sumner had
obtained their seats in the Senate by questionable compromises.
Chase hotly branded the statement as false. Sumner contemptuously
denied that he had even sought the position, much less bargained for
it. The speech was closed with an earnest appeal to the Senators
to banish the subject of slavery forever and refer it to the
people to decide for themselves as they did other questions, with
assurance that this would result in a satisfactory settlement of
the vexed problem and bring abiding peace to all. As the day was
dawning he closed.

With difficulty the presiding officer had repressed the bursts of
applause in the crowded galleries. Even Seward, moved to admiration
by the overwhelming power and marvelous skill of his adversary,
impulsively cried out, "I never had so much respect for him as I
have to-night."

Amid the solemn hush of anxious expectancy the crowd awaited the
calling of the roll. While no one doubted the result, all listened
in breathless silence to the voting of the Senators as though it
were the voice of doom. Fourteen voted no, and were thirty-seven
voted yes. The Senate adjourned amid the loud booming of cannon
at the Navy Yard, which celebrated the great victory. In the chill
gray dawn, as they stood on the steps of the Capitol and listened
to the exultant booming of cannon, Chase said to Sumner:

"They celebrate a present victory, but the echoes they awake will
never rest until slavery itself shall die."

The bill now went to the House, where its management was entrusted
to Douglas' lieutenant, Richardson, chairman of the Territorial
Committee. But the country was aroused. The loud storm appalled
the Northern Members, whose votes were needed. Pierce hesitated
until goaded on by his Southern counselors. The attempt to refer
the bill to the Territorial Committee failed. It was referred to
the Committee of the Whole and went to the foot of a long calendar.
This alarmed Douglas, who now spent most of his time in the House
assisting Richardson. The Administration brought all of its
power to bear on the refractory Members, and on the 8th of May the
forces were ready for the attack. The House resolved itself into
a Committee of the Whole, laid aside all previous business and
proceeded to the consideration of the bill. The struggle at once
began between the domineering majority and the rebellious minority
and continued with increasing bitterness all day, all night and
until midnight of the 9th, when the session broke up in angry riot,
the enraged members leaping on their desks and shrieking in frenzy
or striving to assault each other with deadly weapons.

All were exhausted by the long, sleepless strain, and many were
drunk. Douglas was on the floor during most of the session, passing
about swiftly among his followers and directing their movements,
the master-spirit who guided the storm of his own raising. At
midnight the House, now a mere bedlam, adjourned.

The struggle dragged along from day to day, the minority stubbornly
contesting every inch, and the majority, under the personal direction
of Douglas, hesitating to use their power. At last, on May 22nd,
at nearly midnight, the final vote was forced and the bill passed
by a majority of thirteen. Among those voting against it was Thomas
H. Benton of Missouri, now a Member of the House, after his thirty
years' service in the Senate. His terse characterization is more
generally remembered than anything else said against it. Speaking
with a statesman's contempt of the explanatory clause, he said it
was "a little stump speech injected in the belly of the bill."

Chapter VII. The Brewing Storm.

The powerful will and effective energy of the young Senator had achieved
a legislative revolution. Perhaps, like Geethe's apprentice, he
had called into action powers of mischief which he would not be
able to control. With the instincts of the politician he had sought
to devise a fundamental principle to meet a passing exigency. He
had cooked his breakfast over the volcano.

The whole doctrine of popular sovereignty which became thenceforth
the central article in his creed did such violence both to law and
philosophy as to discredit the acumen of any statesman who seriously
believed it. It was a short lived doctrine, speedily repudiated
with disgust by the South, in whose interest it had been invented,
and rejected as a legal heresy by a Supreme Court of learned
advocates of slavery. It is hardly possible that Douglas believed
that Congress could delegate its highest duties and responsibilities
to a handful of chance squatters on the frontier. This doctrine,
to the establishment of which he devoted a great part of the remaining
energies of his life, "meant that Congress, which represented
the political wisdom of an educated people, should abdicate its
constitutional right of deciding a question which demanded the
most sagacious statesmanship in favor of a thousand, or perhaps
ten thousand, pioneers, adventurers and fortune seekers, who should
happen to locate in the Territory."

The proposition to give the squatters actual sovereignty in all things
was an evident reducto ad absurdium. And yet it was the inevitable
result of Douglas' reasoning. The only excuse for the existence
of territorial governments was that the inhabitants were not yet
ready for the duties of self-government. Squatter sovereignty rested
on the assumption that there was no such period of immaturity, and
hence no period in which territorial governments were justified.
The clear logic of the doctrine would entitle the first band of
squatters on the public domain to organize a State. But it was
a superficially plausible proposition that appealed with peculiar
power to the uncritical popular prejudice. The equality of men
and the right of self government were the central truths of the
American polity. The sentimental devotion to these two principles
was passionate and universal. A dogma that seemed to embody them
was a rare invention, the supreme feat of the highest order of
practical political genius.

But the omens were not good. People seemed absurdly in earnest
about this harmless political maneuver. Throughout the North rose
a storm of vehement protest, not merely from Abolitionists and Whigs
but from insurgent Democrats, which resulted in the consolidation
of the incoherent anti-slavery factions into the Republican party
and its early conquest of the Democratic States of the Northwest.
It developed later that the Northern Democracy was hopelessly ruined
by this political masterpiece of the greatest Northern Democrat.

Lincoln, who had been quietly maturing in modest retirement, was
roused by this shock and began that memorable battle with Douglas,
which finally lifted the obscure lawyer to heights above the great
Senator. A resolution endorsing the Nebraska bill was pushed through
the Illinois legislature with difficulty, several of the ablest
Democrats denouncing it bitterly. Other Northern legislatures either
protested against it or remained ominously silent. Throughout the
North pulpit and press thundered against the repeal with startling
disregard of party affiliations. Three thousand New England
clergymen sent a petition protesting against it "in the name of
Almighty God." The clergy of New York denounced it. The ministers
of Chicago and the Northwest sent to Douglas a remonstrance with
a request that he present it, which he did. He was deeply hurt
by the angry protests from the moral guides of the people. He
denounced the preachers for their ignorant meddling in political
affairs, and declared with great warmth that they had desecrated
the pulpit and prostituted the sacred desk to the miserable and
corrupting influence of party politics. He afterwards said in
bitter jest, "on my return home I traveled from Boston to Chicago
in the light of fires in which my own effigies were burning."

Congress adjourned early in August, but he lingered in the East and
not until late in the month did he return to meet his constituents.
The intensity of popular indignation at the North was a disagreeable
surprise to him. In Chicago the sentiment was openly and overwhelmingly
against him. It was dangerous, now that he had fought his way up
to the head of his party and seemed assured of the coveted nomination,
to permit himself to be discredited at home.

Four years before he had conquered the hostile city by a speech,
and he resolved again to subdue its insurgent spirit. Meetings of
disgusted Democrats and indignant Whigs had been held to denounce
him. He had been burned in effigy on the streets. He had been
charged with loitering in the East afraid to meet the people whom
he had betrayed. The changes were rung on the fact that his middle
name was that of the traitor, Benedict Arnold. When he entered the
city the flags on building and vessels were hanging mournfully at
half-mast. At sunset the bells were tolled solemnly. It was truly
a funereal reception. Arrangements were made for him to address
the people on the night of September 1st in vindication of himself.
The meeting was held in the large open space in front of North
Market Hall. The crowd was enormous and ominously sullen. The
roofs, windows and balconies of all adjacent buildings were occupied.
There was not a cheer, except from a little band of friends in
front of him, as at nearly eight o'clock he rose to speak.

The memorable scene which followed illustrates how small is the
interval that separates the most advanced civilization from the
grossest barbarism. He began his speech, but was soon interrupted
by a storm of hisses and groans, growing louder and louder until it
seemed that the whole enormous throng was pouring out its execration
in a mingled hiss and groan. He waited with defiant calmness for the
storm to subside and again attempted to speak. He told them with
manifest vexation that he had returned home to address his constituents
and defend his course and that he intended to be heard. Again he
was interrupted by the overwhelming hiss, mingled with groans and
coarse insults. His friends fiercely threatened to resent the
outrage, but he prudently restrained them. He then began to shout
defiance and rebukes at the mob. His combative temper was stirred.
He shook his head and brandished his fists at the jeering crowd.
His friends importuned him to desist, but he pushed them aside and
again and again returned to the attack with stentorian tones and
vehement gestures, striving to outvoice the wild tumult and compel
an audience.

But they were as resolute as he and persistently drowned his
shouting. This continued nearly three hours. At half-past ten,
baffled, mortified and angry, he withdrew. One admiring biographer
declares that he yelled to the mob as a parting valediction,
"Abolitionists of Chicago, it is now Sunday morning. I will go to
church while you go to the devil in your own way." The irrepressible
conflict was approaching the muscular stage of its development,
when the aroused passions of the people must find some other vent
than words, when the game of politics could no longer be safely
played with the strongest emotions of a deeply moral race.

It was not possible to treat the matter lightly. Evidently a tide
of fanatical passion had set against him, not only in the old North,
but in the new Northwest, the field of his undisputed mastery.
It was necessary to bestir himself in earnest and turn back this
rising flood which threatened to engulf him just as he came in sight
of his goal. The symptoms were decidedly bad. The elections thus
far held indicated a surprising revolt against his new Democratic
gospel of popular sovereignty. As the autumn advanced the omens
grew worse. New Hampshire and Connecticut had already manifested
their disapproval. Iowa, hitherto staunchly Democratic, was
carried by the Whigs. The later New England elections showed the
most amazing Democratic defection. Pennsylvania elected to Congress
twenty-one pronounced opponents of popular sovereignty and slavery
extension. Ohio and Indiana had both cast their votes for Pierce.
But at this election Ohio rejected the revised Democratic platform
by 75,00 and Indiana by 13,000.

After his rebuff in Chicago he plunged into the Illinois campaign,
which was fought on the Kansas-Nebraska issue. In the northern
part of the State his receptions were chilly and his audiences
unfriendly, sometime indulging in boisterous demonstrations
of hostility. "Burning effigies, effigies suspended by robes,
banners with all the vulgar mottoes and inscriptions that passion
and prejudice could suggest, were displayed at various points.
Whenever he attempted to speak, the noisy demonstrations which had
proved so successful in Chicago were repeated."

But as he moved southward the people became more cordial. The great
center of political activity was Springfield, where the State Fair,
lasting through the first week of October, attracted thousands of
people, and the politicians assembled to make speeches and plan
campaigns. He spoke on October 3rd at the State House. The most
important matter pending was the choice of the legislature which
should elect a Senator to succeed his colleague Shields, who was
a candidate for reelection. The opposition was a heterogeneous
compound of Whigs, anti-Nebraska Democrats and all other political
elements opposed to the revised Democratic creed. The leading
candidates of this fusion party for Senator were Lyman Trumbull,
a Democrat opposed to the new program of slavery extension, and
Abraham Lincoln, the recognized leader of the Whig party of the
State. It was expected that Lincoln would answer Douglas on the
following day.

This political tourney held in the little Western Capital was
in many ways a rather notable event. The great question of human
slavery had now definitely passed from the region of mere moral
disquisition into that of active statesmanship. It had become the
decisive practical problem of the time, the attempt to solve which
was revolutionizing party politics and sweeping away the political
philosophy of the past. The opinions of men on this question
were determining their associations and directing their conduct,
regardless of minor matters, which are now forgotten. The South
was united for the support and extension of slavery. The North
was tending to unity in the resolve to prevent its further spread.
Already the new generation of Southern statesmen were plotting to
divide the Union and were bent on extending the slave holding States
across the continent, believing that when the separation occurred,
California would join the Southern Confederation and thus give
them a Republic extending from ocean to ocean and controlling the
mouth of the Mississippi.

The first step in this plan had already been taken by opening to
slavery the Territory of Kansas, which then contained a large part
of Colorado. The remaining task of pushing their western border
on to the Pacific seemed comparatively easy. Already treason was
festering in the heart of the South, but Douglas, now the most
powerful ally of these plotting traitors, was entirely devoted to
the Union. He neither felt nor thought deeply on any question. The
symptoms of coming revolution were merely disclosures of political
strategy to him. The South held out the bait of the Presidency,
and he led its battle. In his attachment to the Union and his
subordination of both morals and statecraft to its preservation as
the supreme end, he was a faithful echo of the great statesmen of
the preceding age. But a generation of statesmen had appeared in
the North with a large and growing following who were reluctantly
reaching the conclusion that the primary rights of man were even
more sacred than the Union. Political expediency was not their
ultimate test of right.

Lincoln, though yet comparatively obscure, was destined soon to become
the leader of this new school of ethical statesmen, as distinguished
from the old school of political temporizers and opportunists
to which Douglas belonged. Lincoln, as Douglas well knew, was a
man of finer intellectual gifts than any of the great senatorial
triumvirate whom he had successfully met. His moral feelings were
tuned to as high a key as Sumner's. He had a firmer grasp of the
central truths of the new politico-moral creed than Chase. He
had more tact and sagacity than Seward. He had more patience with
temporary error, more serene faith in the health and sanity of human
nature than any of the three. He was a greater master of the art
of popular oratory than any of them. Above all he had the power,
dangerous to Douglas, of seizing the most ingenious and artfully
concealed sophism and good naturedly dragging it to the light.
Endowed with the most exuberant flow of genial humor, he was yet
sternly earnest in his belief in the inviolable sanctity of moral
right. During his recent years he had read much and thought deeply.
He had mastered a style rarely equaled in clearness, simplicity
and power. Without the prejudices and entanglements of a past
political career, he entered the arena in the ripeness of his
slow-maturing powers. Not only his temperament and intellect but
his experience and training admirably fitted him for the high task
which he was destined to perform.

When Douglas opened his speech at the State House, he unconsciously
lent new importance to Lincoln by announcing that he understood
that he was to answer him, and requesting him to come forward and
arrange terms for the debate. But Lincoln was not present and he
plunged into his argument, defending the Kansas-Nebraska bill, his
own course and that of his party. Lincoln spoke the next day and
among his most eager listeners was Douglas, who occupied a seat in
front and was generously invited to reply. The speech, four hours
long, was an agreeable surprise to Lincoln's friends, a startling
revelation to Douglas and an astonishing event to the crowd, who
recognized in the awkward country lawyer a dangerous antagonist for
the great Senator, the incomparable master of the art of political
debate. He realized that this obscure adversary had clutched him
with a power never felt in his great struggles with the giants
of the Senate. He indicated his sense of the importance of the
contest by devoting two hours to a reply. The chief interest of
this meeting now is in the new prominence which it gave to Lincoln.
The long duel lasted intermittently through four years, and finally
gave Lincoln such fame that he was chose over Seward and Chase to
lead the anti-slavery forces which they had roused from lethargy
and organized into unity.

The Illinois campaign continued with great spirit and Douglas had
the mortification of seeing what he regarded as a wave of fanaticism
engulf the State. The anti-Nebraska fusion carried the legislature,
defeated Shields and, after a brief contest between Trumball, the
anti-Nebraska Democrat, and Lincoln, the anti-slavery Whig, elected
the former Senator.

Chapter VIII. Decline of Popular Sovereignty.

Congress had confessed its incompetency to deal with the Kansas
problem and referred it to the decision of rude squatters on
the frontier. They dealt with this grave congressional question
in characteristic fashion. An Emigrant Aid Society, organized in
Massachusetts, was among the means adopted by the North to colonize
the Territory and mold its institutions. The adventurous frontiersmen
of western Missouri were chiefly relied on by the South to shape
the new State. The Emigrant Society founded the town of Lawrence
and established there a formidable anti-slavery colony. The Missouri
squatters organized a "Self-Defensive Association" and attempted
to drive out the Northern settlers. Elections were held by the
colonists from the North and their Missouri neighbors in which the
Missourians outnumbered their rivals and captured the territorial
government. The Northern colonists organized a State and attempted
to run it. Irregular warfare was maintained between the Lawrence
squatters and the invading Missourians to determine which faction
was entitled to exercise the sovereignty delegated by Congress.

The House passed a bill to admit Kansas with the Constitution
adopted at Topeka by the Northern settlers in their abortive effort
to organize a State. It failed in the Senate and a few days later
the Federal troops dispersed the usurping State legislature. The
Governor seeing that all civil authority was ended, negotiate a
truce between the warring factions, resigned and hastened away from
the scene of the disastrous experiment of Squatter Sovereignty.

The meeting of Congress on December 3rd, 1855, marked another stage
in the great struggle. So completely were the parties disorganized
that it was found impossible to classify this Congress. From
December 3rd to February 2nd the House was unable even to organize
itself. On December 31st the President sent in his message. He
disposed of the overshadowing problem in a few brief words and
devoted the message to ephemeral matters long since as completely
forgotten as himself. Although civil war had been raging in Kansas
for many months and the carnival of crime was still in progress
on that frontier, he gravely assured Congress that it was a matter
of congratulation that the Republic was tranquilly advancing in a
career of prosperity and peace. He told them that the people of
the Territory were clothed with the power of self-government and
that he had not felt justified in interfering with their exercise
of that right. But on January 24th he sent another message announcing
in general terms the disappointment of his hopes and recommending
an enabling act for the admission of Kansas as a State.

The Senate consisted of thirty-four Democrats, twelve Whigs and
thirteen Republicans. Douglas was the recognized leader of the
majority, without whose presence they were unwilling to take any

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