|376 ABEAHAM LINCOLN
chap. xxl colleague in the United States Senate, General James Shields, was about to expire, and the new Legislature would choose his successor. To the war of party principles was therefore added the incentive of a brilliant official prize. The Whigs were keenly alive to this chance and its influence upon their possible ascendency in the State.
Lincoln's Whig friends had therefore seen his reappearance in active discussion with unfeigned pleasure. Of old they knew his peculiar hold and influence upon the people and his party. His few speeches in the adjoining counties had shown them his maturing intellect, his expanding power in debate. Acting upon himself, this renewed practice on the stump crystallized his thought and brought method to his argument. The opposition newspapers had accused him of " mousing about the libraries in the State House." The charge was true. Where others were content to take statements at second hand, he preferred to verify citations as well as to find new ones. His treatment of his theme was therefore not only bold but original.
By a sort of common consent his party looked to him to answer Douglas's speech. This was no light task, and no one knew it better than Lincoln. Douglas's real ability was, and remains, unquestioned. In many qualities of intellect he was truly the " Little Griant" which popular fancy nicknamed him. It was no mere chance that raised the Vermont cabinet-maker's apprentice from a penniless stranger in Illinois in 1833 to a formidable competitor for supreme leadership in the great Democratic party of the nation in 1852. When after the
LINCOLN AND TEUMBULL 377
lapse of a quarter of a century we measure him chap, with the veteran chiefs whom he aspired to supplant, we see the substantial basis of his confidence and ambition. His great error of statesmanship aside, he stands forth more than the peer of associates who underrated his power and looked askance at his pretensions. In the six years of perilous party conflict which followed, every conspicuous party rival disappeared in obscurity, disgrace, or rebellion. Battling while others feasted, sowing where others reaped, abandoned by his allies and persecuted by his friends, Douglas alone emerged from the fight with loyal faith and unshaken courage, bringing with him through treachery, defeat, and disaster the unflinching allegiance and enthusiastic admiration of nearly three-fifths of the rank and file of the once victorious army of Democratic voters at the north. He had not only proved himself their most gallant chief, but as a final crown of merit he led his still powerful contingent of followers to a patriotic defense of the Constitution and government which some of his compeers put into such mortal jeopardy.
We find him here at the beginning of this severe conflict in the full flush of hope and ambition. He was winning in personal manner, brilliant in debate, aggressive in party strategy. To this he added an adroitness in evasion and false logic perhaps never equaled, and in his defense of the Nebraska measure this questionable but convenient gift was ever his main reliance. Besides, his long official career gave to his utterances the stamp and glitter of oracular statesmanship. But while Lincoln knew all Douglas's strong points he was no less familiar with
378 ABEAHAM LINCOLN
chap. xxi. his weak ones. They had come to central Illinois about the same time, and had in a measure grown up together. Socially they were on friendly terms; politically they had been opponents for twenty years. At the bar, in the Legislature, and on the stump they had often met and measured strength. Each therefore knew the temper of the other's steel no less than every joint in his armor.
It was a peculiarity of the early West—perhaps it pertains to all primitive communities—that the people retained a certain fragment of the chivalric sentiment, a remnant of the instinct of hero-worship. As the ruder athletic sports faded out, as shooting-matches, wrestling-matches, horse-races, and kindred games fell into disuse, political debate became, in a certain degree, their substitute. But the principle of championship, while it yielded high honor and consideration to the victor, imposed upon him the corresponding obligation to recognize every opponent and accept every challenge. To refuse any contest, to plead any privilege, would be instant loss of prestige. This supreme moment in Lincoln's career, this fateful turning of the political tide, found him fully prepared for the new battle, equipped by reflection and research to permit himself to be pitted against the champion of Democracy—against the very author of the raging storm of parties; and it displays his rare self-confidence and consciousness of high ability, to venture to attack such an antagonist.
Douglas made his speech, according to notice, on the first day of the fair, Tuesday, October 3. "I will mention," said he, in Ms opening remarks, " that it is understood by some gentlemen that Mr.
LIKCOLN AND TRUMBULL 379
Lincoln, of this city, is expected to answer me. If chap.xxi. this is the understanding, I wish that Mr. Lincoln would step forward and let us arrange some plan upon which to carry out this discussion." Mr. Lincoln was not there at the moment, and the arrangement could not then be made. Unpropi-tious weather had brought the meeting to the Representatives' Hall in the State House, which was densely packed. The next day found the same hall filled as before to hear Mr. Lincoln. Douglas occupied a seat just in front of him, and in his rejoinder he explained that " my friend Mr, Lincoln expressly invited me to stay and hear him speak to-day, as he heard me yesterday, and to answer and defend myself as best I could. I here thank him for his courteous offer." The occasion greatly equalized the relative standing of the champions. The familiar surroundings, the presence and hearty encouragement of his friends, put Lincoln in his best vein. His bubbling humor, his perfect temper, and above all the overwhelming current of his historical arraignment extorted the admiration of even his political enemies. "His speech was four hours in length" wrote one of these, "and corre-
07 ' sponden.ce
was conceived and expressed in a most happy and « Missouri pleasant style, and was received with abundant applause. At times he made statements which ber brought Senator Douglas to his feet, and then good-humored passages of wit created much interest and enthusiasm." All reports plainly indicate that Douglas was astonished and disconcerted at this unexpected strength of argument, and that he struggled vainly through a two hours' rejoinder to break the force of Lincoln's victory in the debate.
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chap.xxl Lincoln had hitherto been the foremost man in his district. That single effort made him the leader on the new question in his State.
The fame of this snccess brought Lincoln urgent calls from all the places where Douglas was expected to speak. Accordingly, twelve days afterwards, October 16, they once more met in debate, at Peoria. Lincoln, as before, gave Douglas the opening and closing speeches, explaining that he was willing to yield this advantage in order to secure a hearing from the Democratic portion of his listeners. The audience was a large one, but not so representative in its character as that at Springfield.' The occasion was made memorable, however, by the fact that when Lincoln returned home he wrote out and published his speech. We have therefore the revised text of his argument, and are able to estimate its character and value. Marking as it does with unmistakable precision a step in the second period of his intellectual development, it deserves the careful attention of the student of his life.
After the lapse of more than a quarter of a century the critical reader still finds it a model of brevity, directness, terse diction, exact and lucid historical statement, and full of logical propositions so short and so strong as to resemble mathematical axioms. Above all it is pervaded by an elevation of thought and aim that lifts it out of the commonplace of mere party controversy. Comparing it with his later speeches, we find it to contain not only the argument of the hour, but the premonition of the broader issues into which the new struggle was destined soon to expand.
LINCOLN AND TBUMBXJLL 381
The main, broad current of his reasoning was to chap.xxi. vindicate and restore the policy of the fathers of the country in the restriction of slavery; but running through this like a thread of gold was the demonstration of the essential injustice and immorality of the system. He said:
This declared indifference but, as I must thmlc, covert zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world, enables the enemies of free institutions with plausibility to taunt us as hypocrites; causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity j and especially because it forces so many really good men among ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty, criticizing the Declaration of Independence and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.
The doctrine of self-government is right,— absolutely and eternally right,— but it has no just application as here attempted. Or perhaps I should rather say that whether it has such just application, depends upon whether a negro is not, or is, a man. If he is not a man, in that case he who is a man may as a matter of self-government do just what he pleases with him. But if the negro is a man, is it not to that extent a total destruction of self-government to say that he too shall not govern himself ? When the white man governs himself, that is self-governnlent j but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government •— that is despotism.
What I do say is, that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
The master not only governs the slave without his consent, but he governs him by a set of rules altogether different from those which he prescribes for himself.
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chap. xxi. Allow all the governed an equal voice in the government j that, and that only, is self-government.
Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature
— opposition to it, in his love of justice. These principles
are an eternal antagonism j and when brought into colli
sion so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks
and throes and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Re
peal the Missouri Compromise—repeal all compromise—
repeal the Declaration of Independence — repeal all past
history — still you cannot repeal human nature.
I particularly object to the new position which the avowed principle of this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I object to it because it assumes that there can be moral right in the enslaving of one man by another. I object to it as a dangerous dalliance for a free people,— a sad evidence that feeling prosperity, we forget right,—that liberty as a principle we have ceased to revere.
Little by little, but steadily as man's march to the grave, we have been giving up the old for the new faith. Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration that for some men to enslave others is a " sacred right of self-government." These principles cannot stand together. They are as opposite as God and mammon.
Our Republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit if not the blood of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of " moral right" back upon its existing legal rights, and its arguments of " necessity." Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it, and there let it rest in peace. Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence, and the practices and policy which harmonize with it. Let North and South —let all Americans
— let all lovers of liberty everywhere — join in the great
and good work. If we do this, we shall not only have
LINCOLN AND TBUMBULL 383
saved the Union, but we shall have so saved.it, as to chap.xxi. make and to keep it forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it that the succeeding millions of free, happy people, the world over, shall rise up and call us blessed to the latest generations.
The election which, occurred on November 7 iss*. resulted disastrously for Douglas. It was soon found that the Legislature on joint ballot would probably give a majority for Senator against Shields, the incumbent, or any other Democrat who had supported the Nebraska bill. Who might become his successor was more problematical. The opposition majority was made up of anti-Nebraska Democrats, of what were then called " abolitionists " (Lovejoy had been elected among these), and finally of Whigs, who numbered by far the largest portion. But these elements, except on one single issue, were somewhat irreconcilable. In this condition of uncertainty a host of candidates sprung up. There was scarcely a member of Congress from Illinois— indeed, scarcely a prominent man in the State of any party — who did not conceive the flattering dream that he himself might become the lucky medium of compromise and harmony.
Among the Whigs, though there were other aspirants, Lincoln, whose speeches had contributed so much to win the election, was the natural and most prominent candidate. According to Western custom, he addressed a short note to most of the Whig members elect and to other influential members of the party asking their support. Generally the replies were not only affirmative but cordial and even enthusiastic. But a
384 ABKAHAM LINCOLN
chap. xxi. dilemma now arose. Lincoln had been chosen one of the members from Sangamon County by some 650 majority. The Constitution of Illinois contained a clause disqualifying members of the Legislature and certain other designated officials from being elected to the Senate. Good lawyers generally believed this provision repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, and that the qualifications of Senators and Representatives therein prescribed could be neither increased nor diminished by a State. But the opposition had only a majority of one or two. If Lincoln resigned his membership in the Legislature this might destroy the majority. If he refused to resign, such refusal might carry some member to the Democrats.
At last, upon full deliberation, Lincoln resigned his seat, relying upon the six or seven hundred majority in Sangamon County to elect another Whig. It was a delusive trust. A reaction in the Whig ranks against " abolitionism " suddenly set in. A listless apathy succeeded the intense excitement and strain of the summer's canvass. Local rivalries forced the selection of an unpopular candidate. Shrewdly noting all these signs the Democrats of Sangamon organized what is known in Western politics as a "still-hunt." They made a feint of allowing the special election to go by default. They made no nomination. They permitted an independent Democrat, known under the sobriquet of " Steamboat Smith," to parade his own name. Up to the very day of election they gave no public sign, although they had in the utmost secrecy instructed and drilled their pre-
LINCOLN AND TBUMBTJLL 385
cinct squads. On the morning of election the chap.xxi. working Democrats appeared at every poll, distributing tickets bearing the name of a single candidate not before mentioned by any one. They were busy all day long spurring up the lagging and indifferent, and bringing the aged, the infirm, and the distant voters in vehicles. Their ruse succeeded. The "Whigs were taken completely by surprise, and in a remarkably small total vote, McDaniels, Democrat, was chosen by about sixty majority. The "Whigs in other parts of the State were furious at the unlooked-for result, and the incident served greatly to complicate the senatorial canvass.
Nevertheless it turned out that even after this loss the opposition to Douglas would have a majority on joint ballot. But how unite this opposition made up of Whigs, of Democrats, and of so-called abolitionists I It was just at that moment in the impending revolution of parties when everything was doubt, distrust, uncertainty. Only the abolitionists, ever aggressive on all slavery issues, were ready to lead off in new combinations, but nobody was willing to encounter the odium of acting with them. They, too, were present at the State Fair, and heard Lincoln reply to Douglas. At the close of that reply, and just before Douglas's rejoinder, Lovejoy had announced to the audience that a Republican State Convention would be immediately held in the Senate Chamber, extending an invitation to delegates to join in it. But the appeal fell upon unwilling ears. Scarcely a corporal's guard left the discussion. The Senate Chamber presented a discouraging vol. L—25