Imágenes de páginas

the whole subject by general laws, which you participate with us in passing;" but Mr. Douglas offered them, as sovereign judges and legislators, the territorial settlers themselves, squatters they might be, whom the aid societies rushed into the new Territories for the very purpose of keeping slavery away. The new doctrine was admirably calculated to alarm and incense the South; and, following so closely Mr. Douglas's conduct in the Lecompton affair, it was very natural that he should now be universally regarded by his late followers as a dangerous heretic and a faithless turncoat. The result justified Mr. Lincoln's anticipations. Mr. Douglas did not fully develop his new theory, nor personally promulgate it as the fixed tenet of his faction, until the next year, when he embodied it in the famous article contributed by him to "Harper's Magazine." But it did its work effectually; and, when parties began to marshal for the great struggle of 1860, Mr. Douglas was found to be, not precisely what he had promised, — a Republican, "fighting their battles,” — but an independent candidate, upon an independent platform, dividing the opposition.

Mr. Lincoln pointed out on the spot the wide difference between Mr. Douglas's present views and those he had previously maintained with such dogged and dogmatic persistence. "The new state of the case had induced "the Judge to sheer away from his original ground." The new theory was false in law, and could have no practical application. The history of the country showed it to be a naked humbug, a demagogue's imposture. Slavery was established in all this country, without "local police regulations" to protect it. Dred Scott himself was held in a Territory, not only without "local police regulations" to favor his bondage, but in defiance of a general law which prohibited it. A man who believed that the Dred-Scott Decision was the true interpretation of the Constitution could not refuse to negro slavery whatever protection it needed in the Territories without incurring the guilt of perjury. To say that slave property might be constitutionally confiscated, destroyed, or driven

away from a place where it was constitutionally protected, was such an absurdity as Mr. Douglas alone in this evil strait was equal to; the proposition meaning, as he said on a subsequent occasion, "no less than that a thing may lawfully be driven away from a place where it has a lawful right to be."

"Of that answer at Freeport," as Mr. Herndon has it, ·Douglas "instantly died. The red-gleaming Southern tomahawk flashed high and keen. Douglas was removed out of Lincoln's way. The wind was taken out of Seward's sails (by the House-divided Speech), and Lincoln stood out prominent."

The State election took place on the 2d of November, 1858. Mr. Lincoln had more than four thousand majority of the votes cast; but this was not enough to give him a majority in the Legislature. An old and inequitable apportionment law was still in operation; and a majority of the members chosen under it were, as it was intended by the law-makers they should be, Democrats. In the Senate were fourteen Democrats to eleven Republicans; and in the House, forty Democrats to thirty-five Republicans. Mr. Douglas was, of course, re-elected, and Mr. Lincoln bitterly disappointed. Some one asked Mr. Lincoln how he felt when the returns came in. He replied, "that he felt like the boy that stumped his toe,—it hurt too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry!'"

In this canvass Mr. Lincoln earned a reputation as a popular debater second to that of no man in America, certainly not second to that of his famous antagonist. He kept his temper; he was not prone to personalities; he indulged in few anecdotes, and those of a decent character; he was fair, frank, and manly; and, if the contest had shown nothing else, it would have shown, at least, that "Old Abe" could behave like a well-bred gentleman under very trying circumstances. His marked success in these discussions was probably no surprise to the people of the Springfield District, who knew him as well as, or better than, they did Mr. Douglas. But

in the greater part of the State, and throughout the Union the series of brilliant victories successively won by an obscure man over an orator of such wide experience and renown was received with exclamations of astonishment, alike by listeners and readers. It is true that many believed, or pretended to believe, that he was privately tutored and "crammed" by politicians of greater note than himself; and, when the speeches were at last collected and printed together, it was alleged that Mr. Lincoln's had been re-written or extensively revised by Mr. Judd, Judge Logan, Judge Davis, or some one else of great and conceded abilities.



N the winter of 1858-9, Mr. Lincoln, having no political business on hand, appeared before the public in the character of lecturer, having prepared himself with much care. His lecture was, or might have been, styled, " All Creation is a mine, and every man a miner." He began with Adam and Eve, and the invention of the "fig-leaf apron," of which he gave a humorous description, and which he said was a "joint operation." The invention of letters, writing, printing, of the application of steam, of electricity, he classed under the comprehensive head of "inventions and discoveries,” along with the discovery of America, the enactment of patent-laws, and the "invention of negroes, or the present mode of using them." Part of the lecture was humorous; a very small part of it actually witty; and the rest of it so commonplace that it was a genuine mortification to his friends. He delivered it at two or three points, and then declined all further invitations. To one of these he replied, in March, as follows: "Your note, inviting me to deliver a lecture in Galesburgh, is received. I regret to say I cannot do so now: I must stick to the courts a while. I read a sort of a lecture to three different audiences during the last month and this ; but I did so under circumstances which made it a waste of no time whatever."

From the Douglas discussion many of the leaders of the Republican party believed, and the reader will agree had some foundation for the belief, that Mr. Lincoln was one of the greatest and best men in the party. It was natural, therefore,

that many eyes should be turned towards him for the coming Presidential nomination. He had all the requisites of an available candidate : he had not been sufficiently prominent in national politics to excite the jealousies of powerful rivals; he was true, manly, able; he was pre-eminently a man of the people; he had sprung from a low family in the lowest class of society; he had been a rail-splitter, a flat-boatman, a grocerykeeper, every thing that could commend him to the "popular heart." His manners, his dress, his stories, and his popular name and style of "Honest Old Abe," pointed to him as a man beside whose "running qualities " those of Taylor and Harrison were of slight comparison. That he knew all this, and thought of it a great deal, no one can doubt; and in the late campaign he had most adroitly opened the way for the realization of his hopes. But he knew very well that a becoming modesty in a "new man was about as needful as any thing else. Accordingly, when a Mr. Pickett wrote him on the subject in March, 1859, he replied as follows: "Yours of the 2d instant, inviting me to deliver my lecture on 'Inventions' in Rock Island, is at hand, and I regret to be unable from press of business to comply therewith. In regard to the other matter you speak of, I beg that you will not give it a further mention. I do not think I am fit for the Presidency."



[ocr errors]

But in April the project began to be agitated in his own On the 27th of that month, he was in the office of “The Central Illinois Gazette," when the editor suggested his Mr. Lincoln, “with characteristic modesty, declined." But the editor estimated his "No" at its proper value; and he "was brought out in the next issue, May 4." Thence the movement spread rapidly and strongly. Many Republicans welcomed it, and, appreciating the pre-eminent fitness of the nomination, saw in it the assurance of certain victory.

The West was rapidly filling with Germans and other inhabitants of foreign birth. Dr. Canisius, a German, foreseeing Mr. Lincoln's strength in the near future, wrote to inquire what he thought about the restrictions upon naturalization

« AnteriorContinuar »