« AnteriorContinuar »
and Judge Douglas evidently is basing his chief hope upon the chances of his being able to appropriate the benefit of this disgust to himself. If he can, by much drumming and repeating, fasten the odium of that idea upon his adversaries, he thinks he can struggle through the storm. He therefore clings to this hope, as a drowning man to the last plank. He inakes an occasion for lugging it in from the opposition to the Dred Scott decision. He finds the Republicans insisting that the Declaration of Inpependence includes ALL men, black as well as white, and forthwith he boldly denies that it includes negroes at all, and proceeds to argue gravely that all who contend that it does, do so only because they want to vote, eat and sleep, and marry with negroes! He will have it that they cannot be consistent else. Now, I protest against the counterfeit logic which concludes that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave, I must. necessarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either. I can just leave her alone. In some respects, she certainly is not my equal; but in her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands, without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others.
We have thus presented the leading points in these two speeches, because the discussion was the prelude to the famous Senatorial contest of 1858, which gave Mr. Lincoln a national reputation, not only as an able debater and eloquent orator, but as a sagacious and wise politician-wise enough to stand inflexibly by principles of the soundness of which he was himself satisfied, even against the judgment of earnest friends.
On the 4th of March, 1857, Mr. Buchanan had taken his seat in the Presidential chair. The struggle between freedom and slavery for the possession of Kansas was at its height. A few days after his inauguration, the Supreme Court rendered the Dred Scott decision, which was thought by the friends of slavery to insure their victory, by its holding the Missouri Compromise to be unconstitutional, because the Constitution itself carried slavery all over the Territories of the United States. In spite of this decision, the friends of freedom in Kansas maintained their ground. The slaveholders, however, pushed forward their schemes, and in November, 1857, their Constitutional Convention, held at Lecompton, adopted the Lecompton Constitution. The trick by which they submitted to the popular vote only a schedule on the slavery
question, instead of the whole Constitution, compelling every voter, however he might vote upon this schedule, to vote for their Constitution, which fixed slavery upon the State just as surely, whether the schedule was adopted or not, will be well remembered, as well as the feeling which so unjust a device excited throughout the North. Judge Douglas had sustained the Dred Scott decision, but he could not sustain this attempt to force upon the people of Kansas a Constitution against their will. He took ground openly and boldly against it-denouncing it in the Senate and elsewhere as an outrage upon the people of Kansas, and a violation of every just Democratic principle. He declared that he did not care whether the people voted the Slavery clause " up or down," but he thought they ought to have the chance to vote for or against the Constitution itself.
The Administration had made the measure their own, and this opposition of Douglas at once excited against him the active hostility of the slaveholders and their friends, with whom he had hitherto acted in concert. The bill was finally passed through Congress on April 30th, 1858, under what is known as the English Bill, whereby the Constitution was to be submitted to the votes of the people of Kansas, with the offer of heavy bribes to them, in the way of donations of land, etc., if they would accept it; and the people, in spite of the bribes, voted it down by an immense majority.
Judge Douglas's term was on the eve of expiring, and he came home to Illinois after the adjournment of Congress, to attend in person to the political campaign, upon the result of which was to depend his re-election to the Senate.
His course on the Lecompton bill had made an open breach between him and the Administration, and he had rendered such good service to the' Republicans, in their battle with that monstrous infamy, that there were not wanting many among them who were inclined to think it would be wise not to oppose his re-election.
But the Republicans of Illinois thought otherwise.
They knew that he was not in any sense a Republican. They knew that on the cardinal principle of the Republican party, opposition to the spread of Slavery into the Territories, he was not with them; for he had declared in the most positive way that he did not care whether Slavery was voted down or up." And they therefore determined, in opposition to the views of some influential Republicans, at home as well as in other States, to fight the battle through against him, with all the energy that they could bring to the work. And to this end, on the 17th of June, 1858, at their State Convention at Springfield, they nominated Mr. Lincoln as their candidate for the Senate of the United States.
The circumstances we have briefly sketched invested the campaign about to open with national importance. The people of the whole Union saw that the struggle then initiated in Illinois must ultimately extend to other States, and they knew that they would soon be compelled themselves to pass upon the questions there to be decided. None doubted that the principle of "Popular Sovereignty" would be thoroughly examined, for the reputation of the two combatants as men of extraordinary ability was established. It was the universal expectation that each aspirant for senatorial honors would display peculiar caution in opening the struggle, in order to prevent the other from gaining any undue advantage; but Mr. Lincoln scorned every appearance of subterfuge or evasion. His opinions had become sharply defined and clearly crystallized during the contests through which he had passed in the years preceding, and in his speech to the Convention which nominated him, signifying his acceptance of the honor conferred upon him, he expressed himself so unreservedly and frankly that even his supporters were for the moment startled.
In a speech delivered at Chicago, July 9,—the first after Mr. Lincoln's nomination,-Senator Douglas alluded to this address as having been "well prepared and carefully written." In reply, Mr. Lincoln said, "Gentlemen. Judge Douglas informed you that this speech of mine
was probably carefully prepared. I admit that it was. I am not a master of language. I have not a fine education; I am not capable of entering into a disquisition upon dialectics, as I believe you call it." In the address thus alluded to, Mr. Lincoln struck the key-note of the campaign. Its exposition of his political creed, and his statement of the important points at issue, is so succinct and complete that we reproduce it here. It is as follows:
Mr. President, AND GENTLEMEN OF THE CONVENTION:-If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and coufident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this Government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved, I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.
Have we no tendency to the latter condition?
Let any one who doubts carefully contemplate that now almost com plete legal combination--piece of machinery, so to speak-compounded of the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only what work the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace, the evidences of design and concert of action among its chief architects from the beginning.
The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State Constitutions, and from most of the national territory by Congressional prohibition. Four days later commenced the struggle which ended in repealing that Congressional prohibition. This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.
But so far Congress only had acted; and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable, to save the point already gained and give chance for more.
This necessity had not been overlooked, but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of "squatter sovereignty,"
otherwise called "sacred right of self-government;" which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object. That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska bill itself, in the language which follows: "It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States." Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of "squatter sovereignty," and "sacred right of self-government." "But," said opposition members, "let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the Territory may exclude slavery." "Not we," said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.
While the Nebraska bill was passing through Congress, a law-case, involving the question of a negro's freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free State and then into a Territory covered by the Congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave for a long time in each, was passing through the United States Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraska bill and lawsuit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negro's name was "Dred Scott," which name now designates the decision finally made in the case. Before the then next presidential election, the law-case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requested the leading advocate of the Nebraska bill to state his opinion whether the people of a Territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: "That is a question for the Supreme Court."
The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory. The outgoing president, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement. The Supreme Court met again; did not announce their decision, but ordered a re-argument. The presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever it might be. Then, in a few days, came the decision.
The reputed author of the Nebraska bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital, indorsing the Dred Scott decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it. The new president, too, seizes the early