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reignty” doctrine: “If one man wants to make another man a slave, a third man has no right to prevent him!” His position was that the nation's duty was to hold the common domain for freedom, and that this was the business of Congress. Douglas constantly twitted Lincoln with belief in negro equality. This Lincoln disclaimed; he did not believe in the negro's equality with the white man; did not believe in making him a voter or a juror; but because an inferior, had a negro no rights? Lincoln's anti-slavery position was very moderate; in reply to Douglas's challenge, he disclaimed any disposition to agitate against the fugitive slave law; as to practical restriction, he had nothing to urge except exclusion from the territories. Here he was emphatic, and he protested earnestly against Douglas's “not caring whether slavery was voted up or voted down.”
The best test which the debate gave of his quality was the memorable passage in which he declared his conviction that “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot permanently endure half slave and half free.” In this he rose above his wonted level, and spoke with a prophet's forecast. He read this passage in advance to a group of the party leaders. Though, after this bold opening, the speech was only a calm and weighty argument that the interest of slavery was being deliberately and systematically promoted by all branches of the Democracy,—yet all, except Herndon, were alarmed at this passage, and besought Lincoln to withhold it. But he answered soberly and half-mournfully that it expressed his full conviction, and he would face defeat rather than suppress it. In the immediate result, it injured his cause; a general comment of Republicans, through the campaign, says Herndon, was “Damn that fool speech!”
Douglas won the Legislature and the senatorship, though Lincoln won the popular majority. When he was asked
how he felt about his defeat, he answered: “I feel as the boy did when he stubbed his toe,
-he was too big to cry, and it hurt too bad to laugh!" The country at large, which had closely watched the debate, forgot him for two years. Early in 1860 he was invited to lecture in New York. He was not regarded as a Presidential candidate; and when he appeared,-in clothes full of creases from his carpet-bag, with no press copy of his speech and not expecting the newspapers to report it-he was such a figure as to his audience in Cooper Institute seemed to give little promise. But he carried them with him completely, and the next morning the seven-column report in the Tribune told the country that in this man there was a new force to reckon with.
The speech ranks with the great historical orations of the country. The first part was a careful review of the position which the signers of the Constitution took in their individual capacity as to the right of Congress to regulate or exclude slavery from the territories. He showed by specific proof that of the thirty-nine signers twenty-one voted definitely on various occasions for Congressional Acts which did so exclude or regulate slavery; and that of the remaining eighteen almost all were known to have held the same opinion. This was a masterly refutation of the claim of Douglas and the Democracy that the fathers of the nation were on their side as to the territorial question. Lincoln then passed to a broader view, and inquired: What can we do that will really satisfy the South? Every word is sober, temperate, well-weighed. The South, he showed, is really taking very little interest now in the Territories. It is excited about the John Brown raid, and accuses the Republican party of responsibility for that. But not a single Republican was implicated in the raid—not one. You, said Lincoln, addressing the South-interpret your constitutional rights in a different way from what we do,
and say if we do not admit your interpretation,-if we elect a Republican president,—you will break up the Union. But this is simply the highwayman's plea. What, then, can we Republicans do to satisfy the South? We must not only let them alone, but somehow convince them that we do let them alone. In a word, this and this only will convince them; we must cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly, - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated; we must place ourselves avowedly with them. "Douglas's new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free-State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us."
Thus he concludes: “If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored, contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man,such as a policy of 'don't care' on a question about which all true men do care,-such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to disunionists, reversing the divin rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous, to repentance, such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said and undo what Washington did. Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the government, nor of dungeons
to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
In behalf of the South, Jefferson Davis, at about this time, presented in the Senate, as their ultimatum, a set of resolutions. These called for the recognition of slaveproperty as an indefeasible right of territorial settlers, entitled to congressional protection; for the enforcement of the fugitive slave law, and the repeal of the “personal liberty laws” by which it was hindered or nullified in many States; and in general, for the rebuke of all anti-slavery agitation. This was an exact equivalent of Lincoln's interpretation of the South's demand; the North must say that slavery is right, and act accordingly. And this was indeed an ultimatum, with the distinct intimation: “This, or we dissolve the Union.”
THE ELECTION OF 1860
Now came on the battle in the Presidential convention. The Democratic convention was dramatic and momentous. It met at Charleston, S. C., in the last days of April, 1860. The struggle was between Douglas and the extreme South. The contest was not over the nomination, but on the resolutions. The Douglas party proposed the reaffirmation of the Cincinnati platform of 1856, of which the kernel lay in the words: “Non-intervention by Congress with slavery in State or Territory”; and to this they would now add only a clause referring doubtful constitutional points to the Supreme Court. But the Southern party would accept nothing short of an affirmation that in the Territories until organized as States, the right of slave-holding was absolute and indefeasible, and Congress was bound to protect it. On this issue the dispute in the convention was obstinate and irreconcilable.
The South had long held unbroken sway in the Democracy and in the nation. It had absolutely controlled the last two administrations, though headed by Northern men. Its hold on the Senate had been unbroken, and temporary successes of the Republicans in the House had borne no fruit. The Supreme Court had gone even beyond the demands of the South. Only in Kansas had its cause been lost, because the attempt to coerce a whole territorial population had at last provoked revolt in the Northern Democracy. The breach had been in some sort healed, but the leader of the