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men, and sacking villages, to frighten freedom out of Kansas. Douglas saw that political death awaited him in Illinois if he pursued his Kansas-Nebraska measure ; and all at once he changed front, and voted with the Republicans in Congress against the very measure his own political recklessness inaugurated. His senatorial term was drawing to a close, and now he sought a re-election by appealing to Republicans for support. Those of Illinois were too familiar with his duplicity to believe he was honest, and refused to support him. In other States, where his political character was not so well understood, there were prominent Republicans who asked their brethren of Illinois to return him to the United States Senate.
Mr. Lincoln was never bolder, more earnest, and stronger than he was in this campaign. The Republican State convention met at Springfield on the sixteenth day of June; and it was scarcely organized when a banner was borne into the hall, on which was inscribed, “COOK COUNTY FOR ABRAHAM LINCOLN.” The sight of it seemed to craze the whole assembly. They sprang to their feet, jumped upon the benches, swung their hats, shouted, cheered, and gave themselves up to demonstrations of delight for several minutes. Mr. Lincoln was unanimously nominated ; and in the evening delivered before the convention his famous speech, known in history as “The House-divided-against-itself Speech.” This title was derived from a single paragraph at the opening of the speech, as follows :
"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.” Late in the afternoon
of that day Mr. Lincoln went over to his office, with his carefully-prepared speech in his pocket; and, locking the door behind him, he said to his partner, Mr. Herndon :
"Let me read you a paragraph of my speech.” He read the foregoing extract, which was a part of the first paragraph.
“How do you like it ?" inquired Mr. Lincoln, before Herndon had time to express his surprise. “What do you think of it ?”
“I think it is true,” replied Mr. Herndon, “but is it entirely politic to read or speak it just as it is written?”
“That makes no difference," answered Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Herndon was still more surprised. “Radical” as he was, Lincoln was in advance of him.
"That expression is a truth of all human experience, - a house divided against itself cannot stand,'” added Mr. Lincoln with emphasis. “The proposition is indisputably true, and has been true for more than six thousand years; and I will deliver it as written. ... I would rather be defeated with this expression in the speech, than be victorious without it.”
An hour before the address was to be delivered in the Representatives' Hall, a dozen of his friends assembled in the library room, and Mr. Lincoln read to them several paragraphs of his speech, including the extract quoted.
“What do you think of it?” he asked.
"Fifty years in advance of public opinion," answered one leader, almost angrily.'
“Very unwise,” replied another.
“Nothing could be more unwise; it will certainly defeat your election,” added a fifth.
And so the criticisms fell fast from nearly every tongue. Every one, except Mr. Herndon, condemned the extract in question. He sprang to his feet after all had delivered themselves freely, and said: “Lincoln, deliver it just as it reads."
Mr. Lincoln sat in silence for a moment, then, rising from his seat, he walked backwards and forwards a few moments longer. Suddenly stopping and facing the company, he said :
"Friends, I have thought about this matter a great deal, have weighed the question well from all corners, and am thoroughly convinced the time has come when it should be uttered ; and if it must be that I must go down because of this specch, then let me go down linked to truth, die in the advocacy of what is right and just.”
He delivered the speech just as he had prepared it, and great, indeed, was the excitement occasioned thereby. Many of his warmest friends were provoked by his “unwisdom.”
“A fool's speech,” cried one.
“That foolish speech of yours will kill you, Lincoln," remarked Dr. Loring. “I wish it was wiped out of existence; don't you wish so now?”
"Well, Doctor," replied Mr. Lincoln, “if I had to draw a pen across, and erase my whole life from existence, and had one poor gift or choice left as to what I should save from the wreck, I should choose that speech, and leave it to the world unerased."
More than a year afterwards he was dining with a party of friends at Bloomington when that speech became the theme of discussion, and every person present declared it was “a great mistake.”
" Gentlemen,” replied Mr. Lincoln, “ you may think that speech was a mistake; but I never have believed
it was, and you will see the day when you will consider it the wisest thing I ever said.”
His prophecy was completely fulfilled. The fact was, Mr. Lincoln was led “in a way that he knew not.” A higher intelligence than mere human sagacity guided him in the right. That speech was one of the most marvellous productions in American annals, and it not only gave the keynote to his great senatorial contest with Mr. Douglas, but it settled the character and issue of the next presidential election, and finally sealed the doom of slavery in this country.
After the delivery of this speech Mr. Lincoln challenged Mr. Douglas to joint debates throughout the canvass. The latter accepted the challenge so far as to arrange for debates with the former in seven important places of the State. Mr. Douglas conducted his part of the affair with great pomp and noise, proceeding to his appointments on a chartered train accompanied with a band of music, and artillery to fire salutes, at a cost of fifty thousand dollars. On the other hand, Mr. Lincoln pursued his. usual quiet, unostentatious, and honest way; yet he won the victory every time. “To say that he was the victor, morally and intellectually, is simply to record the judgment of the world.” “In this canvass he earned a reputation as a popular debater second to that of no man in America-certainly not second to that of his famous antagonist.” At the close of one of his debates with Mr. Douglas, even after the latter had occupied thirty minutes in closing the discussion, the assembly was so thoroughly “ enthused” by Mr. Lincoln's victorious effort, that they seized him, in their exuberance of joy, and bore him out of the hall to the hotel upon their shoulders, amidst cheers and shouts that made the welkin ring. In the popular vote he received a majority
of four thousand and eighty-five over Mr. Douglas; but owing to the unfair apportionment of the legislative districts, Mr. Douglas was returned to the United States Senate.
In one of these debates he paid one of the most eloquent tributes to the “ Declaration of Independence” (after having enunciated its principles) that ever fell from human lips; and he closed with these memorable words :
"You may do anything with me you choose, if you will but heed these sacred principles. You may not only defeat me for the senate, but you may take me and put me to death. While pretending no indifference to earthly honours, I do claim to be actuated in this contest by something higher than an anxiety for office. I charge you to drop every paltry and insignificant thought for any man's success. It is nothing; I am nothing; Judge Douglas is nothing. BUT DO NOT DESTROY THAT IMMORTAL EMBLEM OF HUMANITYTHE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE."