Quincy, Adams County, October 13, 1858

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Stephen A. Douglas

Stephen A. Douglas

Carl Schurz

Carl Schurz

“Six days after Galesburg, the candidates met again at Quincy, a town in west-central Illinois that at one time had been [Stephen] Douglas’s home district. Adams County was regarded as ‘Democratic, though not overwhelmingly so,’ Located in the disputed central Illinois area, it was a crucial battleground for both sides, and both saw reasonable prospects for victory. There was not much evolution of arguments between Galesburg and Quincy,’ although Lincoln was more explicit in his delineation of the moral issue. The campaign was taking a physical toll on Douglas, and the Republican papers gloated over his fatigue,” wrote David Zarefsky in Lincoln Douglas and Slavery in the Crucible of Public Debate.1 Wisconsin Republican Carl Schurz attended the debate and later wrote in his memoirs:

The great debate took place in the afternoon on the open square, where a large, pine-board platform had been built for the committee of arrangements, the speakers, and the persons they wished to have with them. I thus was favored with a seat on that platform. In front of it many thousands of people were assembled, Republicans and Democrats standing peaceably together, only chaffing one another now and then in a good-tempered way.

As the champions arrived they were demonstratively cheered by their adherents. The presiding officer agreed upon by the two parties called the meeting to order and announced the program of proceedings. Mr. Lincoln was to open with an allowance of one hour and Senator Douglas was to follow with a speech of one hour and a half, and Mr. Lincoln was to speak half an hour in conclusion. The first part of Mr. Lincoln was to speak half an hour in conclusion. The first part of Mr. Lincoln’s opening address was devoted to a refutation of some things Douglas had said at previous meetings. This refutation may, indeed, have been required for the settlement of disputed points, but it did not strike me as anything extraordinary, either in substance or in form. Neither had Mr. Lincoln any of those physical advantages which usually are thought to be very desirable, if not necessary, to the orator, his voice was not musical, rather high-keyed, and apt to turn into a shrill treble in moments of excitement; but it was not positively disagreeable. It had an exceedingly penetrating, far-reaching quality. The looks of the audience convinced me that every word he spoke was understood at the remotest edges of the vast assemblage. His gesture was awkward. He swung his long arms sometimes in a very ungraceful manner. Now and then he would, to give particular emphasis to a point, bend his knees and body with a sudden downward jerk, and then shoot up again with a vehemence that raised him to his tip-toes and made him look much taller than he really was — a manner of enlivening a speech which at that time was, and perhaps still is, not unusual in the West, but which he succeeded in avoiding at a later period.

There was, however, in all he said, a tone of earnest truthfulness, of elevated, noble sentiment, and of kindly sympathy, which added greatly to the strength of his argument, and became, as in the course of his speech he touched upon the moral side of the question in debate, powerfully impressive. Even when attacking his opponent with keen satire or invective, which, coming from any other speaker, would have sounded bitter and cruel, there was still a certain something in his utterance making his hearers feel that those thrusts came from a reluctant heart, and that he would much rather have treated his foe as a friend.

When Lincoln had sat down amid the enthusiastic plaudits of his adherents, I asked myself with some trepidation in my heart, ‘What will Douglas say now?’ Lincoln’s speech had struck me as very clear, logical, persuasive, convincing even, and very sympathetic, but not as an overwhelming argument. Douglas, I thought, might not be able to confute it, but by the cunning sophistry at his command, and by one of his forceful appeals in prejudice, he might succeed in neutralizing its effect. No more striking contrast could have been imagined than that between those two men as they appeared upon the platform. By the side of Lincoln’s tall, lank, and ungainly form, Douglas stood almost like a dwarf, very short of stature, but square-shouldered and broad-chested, a massive head upon a strong neck, the very embodiment of force, combativeness, and staying power. I have draw his portrait when describing my first impressions of Washington City, and I apprehend it was not a flattering one. On that stage at Quincy he looked rather natty and well groomed in excellently fitting broadcloth and shining linen. But his face seemed a little puffy, and it was said that he had been drinking hard with some boon companions either on his journey or after his arrival. The deep, horizontal wrinkle between his keen eyes was unusually dark and scowling. While he was listening to Lincoln’s speech, a contemptuous smile now and then flitted across this lips, and when he rose, the tough parliamentary gladiator, he tossed his mane with an air of overbearing superiority, of threatening defiance, as if to say: ‘How dare anyone stand up against me?’ As I looked at him, I detested him deeply; but my detestation was not free from an anxious dread as to what was to come. His voice, naturally a strong baritone, gave forth a hoarse and rough, at times even something like a barking, sound. His tone was, from the very start, angry, dictatorial, and insolent in the extreme. In one of his first sentences he charged Lincoln with ‘base insinuations,’ and then he went on in that style with a wrathful frown upon his brow, defiantly shaking his head, clenching his fists, and stamping his feet. No language seemed to be too offensive for him, and even inoffensive things he would sometimes bring out in a manner which sounded as if intended to be insulting; and thus he occasionally called forth, instead of applause from his friends, demonstrations of remonstrance from the opposition. But his sentences were well put together, his points strongly accentuated, his argumentation seemingly clear and plausible, his sophisms skillfully woven so as to throw the desired flood of darkness upon the subject and thus beguile the untutored mind, his appeals to prejudice unprincipled and reckless, but shrewdly aimed, and his invective vigorous and exceedingly trying to the temper of the assailed party. On the whole, his friends were well pleased with his performance and rewarded him with vociferous cheers.

But then came Lincoln’s closing speech of half an hour, which seemed completely to change the temper of the atmosphere. He replied to Douglas’s arguments and attacks with rapid thrusts so deft and piercing, with humorous retort so quaint and pat, and with witty illustrations so clinching, and he did it all so good-naturedly, that the meeting, again and again, broke out in bursts of delight by which even many of his opponents were carried way, while the scowl on Douglas’s face grew darker and darker.

When the debate at Quincy was over, the champions were heartily cheered by their partisans, the assemblage dissolved peaceably, the brass bands began to play again, several of them within hearing of one another, so as to fill the air with discordant sounds, and the country people, with their banners and their maidens in white, got in motion to return to their homes, each party, no doubt, as it usually happens in such cases, persuaded that the result of the day was in its favor. I took my leave of Mr. Lincoln and was not to meet him again until about twenty months later.2

Biographer John T. Morse, Jr., wrote: “At Quincy Lincoln gave his views concerning Republicans with his usual unmistakable accuracy, and certainly he again differentiated it widely from Abolitionism. The Republican party, he said, think slavery ‘a moral, a social, and a political wrong.'”3 Historian William Lee Miller wrote that Mr. Lincoln “tried to defend himself against the charge that he said different things in different parts of the state, and attacked Douglas again for his ‘don’t care’ attitude toward slavery.”4 Another Lincoln admirer who was present at the debate, journalist and humorist David B. Locke, reported:

Douglas said at the beginning of his speech: ‘The highest compliment you can pay Me is by observing a strict silence. I desire rather to be heard than applauded.

The inborn modesty of the one and the boundless vanity of the other could not be better illustrated. Lincoln claimed nothing for himself — Douglas spoke as if applause must follow his utterances.

The character of the two men was still better illustrated in their speeches. The self-sufficiency of Douglas in his opening might be pardoned, for he had been fed upon applause till he fancied himself a more than Caesar; but his being a popular idol could not justify the demagogy that saturated the speech itself. Douglas was the demagogue all the way through. There was no trick of presentation that he did not use. He suppressed facts, twisted conclusions, and perverted history. He wriggled and turned and dodged; he appealed to prejudices; in short, it was evident that what he was laboring for was Douglas and nothing else. The cause he professed was lost sight of in the claims of its advocate. Lincoln, on the other hand, kept strictly to the questions at issue, and no one could doubt but that the cause for which he was speaking was the only thing he had at heart; that his personal interests did not weigh a particle. He was the representative of an idea, and in the vastness of the idea its advocate was completely swallowed up.

Lincoln admitted frankly all the weak points in the position of his party in the most open way, and that simple honesty carried conviction with it. His admissions of weakness, where weakness was visible, strengthened his position on points where he was strong. He knew that the people had intelligence enough to strike the average correctly. His great strength was in his trusting the people instead of considering them as babes in arms. He did not profess to know everything. The audience admired Douglas, but they respected his simple-minded opponent. 5


At precisely half past two o’clock Mr. Lincoln was introduced to the audience, and having been received with three cheers, he proceeded:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: — I have no immediate conference with Judge Douglas, but I will venture to say he and I will perfectly agree that your entire silence both when I speak and when he speaks will be most agreeable to us.

In the month of May, 1858, the elements in the State of Illinois, which have since been consolidated into the Republican party, assembled together in a State Convention at Bloomington. They adopted at that time what, in political language, is called a platform. In June of the same year, the elements of the Republican party in the nation assembled together in a National Convention at Philadelphia. They adopted what is called the National Platform. In June, 1858 — the present year — the Republicans of Illinois re-assembled at Springfield, in State Convention, and adopted again their platform as I suppose not differing in any essential particular from either of the former ones, but perhaps adding something in relation to the new developments of political progress in the country.

The Convention that assembled in June last did me the honor, if it be one, and I esteem it such, to nominate me as their candidate for the United States Senate. I have supposed that in entering upon this canvass I stood generally upon these platforms. We now met together on the 13th of October of the same year, only four months from the adoption of the last platform, and I am unaware that in this canvass, from the beginning until to-day, any one of our adversaries has taken hold of our platforms or laid his finger upon anything that he calls wrong in them.

In the very first one of these joint discussions between Senator and myself, Senator Douglas, without alluding at all to these platforms, or any one of them, of which I have spoken, attempted to hold me responsible for a set of resolutions passed long before the meeting of either one of these Conventions of which I have spoken. And as a ground for holding me responsible for these resolutions, he assumed that they had been passed at a State Convention of the Republican party, and that I took part in that Convention. It was discovered afterwards that this was erroneous, that the resolutions which he endeavored to hold me responsible for, had not been passed at Springfield, where he supposed they had, or assumed that they had, and that they had been passed in no Convention in which I had taken part. The Judge, nevertheless, was not willing to give up the point that he was endeavoring to make upon me, and he therefore thought to still hold me to the point that he was endeavoring to make, by showing that the resolutions that he read, had been passed at a local Convention in the northern part of the State, although it was not a local Convention that embraced my residence at all nor one that reached, as I suppose, nearer than 150 or 200 miles of where I was when it met, nor one in which I took any part at all. He also introduced other resolutions passed at other meetings, and by combining the whole, although they were all antecedent to the two State Conventions, and the one National Convention I have mentioned, still he insisted and now insists, as I understand, that I am in some way responsible for them.

At Jonesboro, on our third meeting, I insisted to the Judge that I was in no way rightfully held responsible for the proceedings of this local meeting or convention in which I had taken no part, and in which I was in not embraced; but I insisted to him that if he thought I was responsible for every man or every set of men everywhere who happen to be my friends, the rule ought to work both ways, and he ought to be responsible for the acts and resolutions of all men or set of men who were or are now his supporters and friends, [good, good,] and gave him a pretty long string of resolutions, passed by men who are now his friends, and announcing doctrines for which he does not desire to be held responsible.

This still does not satisfy Judge Douglas. He still adheres to his proposition, that I am responsible for what some of my friends in different parts of the State have done; but that he is not responsible for what his have done. At least so I understand him. But in addition to that, the Judge at our meeting in Galesburg, last week, undertakes to establish that I am guilty of a species of double-dealing with the public — that I make speeches of a certain sort in the South which I would not make in the North. I apprehend in the course I have marked out for myself that I shall not have to dwell at very great length upon this subject.

As this was done in the Judge’s opening speech at Galesburg, I had an opportunity, as I had the middle speech then, of saying something in answer to it. He brought forward a quotation or two from a speech of mine delivered at Chicago, and then to contrast with it he brought forward an extract from a speech of mine at Charleston, in which he insisted that I was greatly inconsistent, and insisted that his conclusion followed that I was playing a double part, and speaking in one region one way and in another region another way. I have not time now to dwell on this as long as I would like, and I wish only now to re-quote that portion of my speech at Charleston which the Judge quoted, and then make some comments upon it. This he quotes from me as being delivered at Charleston, and I believe correctly: ‘I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races — that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together, there must be the position of superior & inferior. I am as much as any other man in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.’ [‘Good,’ ‘Good,’ and loud cheers.] This, I believe, is the entire quotation from the Charleston speech as the Judge made it. His comments are as follows:

Yes, here you find men who hurrah for Lincoln and say he is right when he discards all distinction between races, or when he declares that he discards the doctrine that there is such a thing as a superior and inferior race; and Abolitionists are required and expected to vote for Mr. Lincoln because he goes for the equality of the races, holding that in the Declaration of Independence the white man and the negro were declared equal, and endowed by Divine law with equality. And down South with the Old Line Whigs, with the Kentuckians, the Virginians, and the Tennesseans, he tells you that there is a physical difference between the races, making the one superior, the other inferior, and he is in favor of maintaining the superiority of the white race over the negro.

Those are the Judge’s comments. Now I wish to show you, that a month, or only lacking three days of a month, before I made the speech at Charleston, which the Judge quotes from, he had himself heard me say substantially the same thing. It was in our first meeting, at Ottawa, I read an extract from an old speech of mine, made nearly four years ago, not merely to show my sentiments, but to show that my sentiments were long entertained and openly expressed; in which extract I expressly declared that my own feelings would not admit a social and political equality between the white and black races, and that even if my own feelings would admit of it, I still knew that the public sentiment of the country would not, and that such a thing was an utter impossibility, or substantially that. That extract from my old speech the reporters, by some sort of accident, passed over, and it was not reported. I lay no blame upon anybody. I suppose they thought that I would hand it over to them, and dropped reporting while I was reading it, but afterwards went away without getting it from me. At the end of that quotation from my old speech, which I read at Ottawa, I made the comments which were reported at that time, and which I will now read, and ask you to notice how very nearly they are the same as Judge Douglas says were delivered by me down in Egypt. After reading I added these words: ‘Now, gentlemen, I don’t want to read at any great length, but this is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the institution of slavery or the black race, and this is the whole of it; and anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political equality with the negro is but a specious and fantastical arrangement of words by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse. I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution in the States where it exists I believe I have no right to do so. I have no inclination to do so. I have no purpose to introduce social and political equality between the white and black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living together on the footing of perfect equality, and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I as well as Judge Douglas am in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior position.’ [Cheers, ‘That’s the doctrine.’] ‘I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence — the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas that he is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color — perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; but in the right to eat the bread without leave of anybody else which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every other man.’ [Loud cheers.]

I have chiefly introduced this for the purpose of meeting the Judge’s charge that the quotation from my Charleston speech was what I would say down south among the Kentuckians, the Virginians, &c., but would not say in the regions in which was supposed to be more of the Abolition element. I now make this comment: That speech from which I have now read the quotation and which is there given correctly, perhaps too much so for good taste, was made away up north in the Abolition district of this State par excellence — in the Lovejoy District — in the personal presence of [Owen] Lovejoy, for he was on the stand with us when I made it. It had been made and put in print in that region only three days less than a month before the speech made at Charleston, the like of which Judge Douglas thinks I would not make where there was any abolition element. I only refer to this matter to say that I am altogether unconscious of having attempted any double dealing anywhere — that upon one occasion I may say one thing and leave other things unsaid, and vice versa; but that I have said anything on one occasion that is inconsistent with what I have said elsewhere, I deny — at least I deny it so far as the intention is concerned. I find that I have devoted to this topic a larger portion of my time than I had intended. I wished to show, but I will pass it upon this occasion, that in the sentiment I have occasionally advanced upon the Declaration of Independence, I am entirely borne out of by the sentiments advanced by our Whig leader, Henry Clay, and I have the book here to show it from; but because I have already occupied more time than I intended to do on that topic, I pass over it.

At Galesburg, I tried to show that by the Dred Scott Decision, pushed to its legitimate consequences, slavery would be established in all the States as well as in the Territories. I did this because, upon a former occasion, I had asked Judge Douglas whether, if the Supreme Court should made a decision declaring that the States had not the power to exclude slavery from their limits, he would adopt and follow that decision as a rule of political action; and because he had not directly answered that question, but had merely contented himself with sneering at it, I again introduced it, and tried to show that the conclusion that I stated followed inevitably and logically from the proposition already decided by the court. Judge Douglas had the privilege of replying to me at Galesburg, and again he gave me no direct answer as to whether he would or would not sustain such a decision if made. I give him this third chance to say yea or no. He is not obliged to do either — probably he will not do either — [laughter] but I give him the third chance. I tried to show then that this result — this conclusion inevitably followed from the point already decided by the court. The Judge, in his reply, again sneers at the thought of the court making any such decision, and in the course of his remarks upon this subject, uses the language which I will not now read. Speaking of me, the Judge says:

‘He goes on and insists the Dred Scott Decision would carry slavery into the Free States, notwithstanding the decision itself says the contrary.’ And he adds: ‘Mr Lincoln knows that there is no member of the Supreme Court that holds that doctrine. He knows that every one of them in their opinions held the reverse.’

I especially introduce this subject again for the purpose of saying that I have the Dred Scott Decision here, and I will thank Judge Douglas to lay his finger upon the place in the entire opinions of the court where any one of them ‘says the contrary.’ It is very hard to affirm a negative with entire confidence. I say, however, that I have examined that decision with a good deal of care, as a lawyer examines a decision, and so far as I have been able to do, the Court has no where in its opinions said that the States have the power to exclude slavery, nor have they used other language substantially that. I also say, so far as I can find, not one of the concurring Judges has said that the States can exclude slavery, nor said anything that was substantially that. The nearest approach that any one of them has made to it, so far as I can find, was by Judge Nelson, and the approach he made to was exactly, in substance, the Nebraska Bill — that the States had the exclusive power over the question of slavery, so far as they are not limited by the Constitution of the United States. I asked the question, therefore, if the non-concurring Judges, McLean or Curtis, had asked to get an express declaration that the States could absolutely exclude slavery from their limits, what reason have we to believe that it would not have been voted down by Judge Douglas and his compeers when it was offered to the Nebraska Bill. [Cheers.]

Also at Galesburg, I said something in regard to those Springfield Resolutions that Judge Douglas had attempted to use upon me at Ottawa, and commented at some length upon the fact that they were, as presented, not genuine. Judge Douglas in his reply to me seemed to be somewhat exasperated. He said he would never have believed that Abraham Lincoln, as he kindly called me, would have attempted such a thing as I had attempted upon that occasion; and among other expressions which he used toward me, was that I dared to say forgery — that I had dared to say forgery [turning to Judge Douglas]. Yes, Judge, I did dare to say forgery. [Loud applause.] But in this political canvass, the Judge ought to remember that I was not the first who dared to say forgery. At Jacksonville Judge Douglas made a speech in answer to something said by Judge Trumbull, and at the close of what he said upon that subject, he dared to say that Trumbull had forged his evidence. He said, too, that he should not concern himself with Trumbull any more, but thereafter he should hold Lincoln responsible for the slanders upon him. [Laughter.] When I met him at Charleston after that, although I think that I should not have noticed this subject if he had not said he would hold me responsible for it, I spread out before him the statements of the evidence that Judge Trumbull had used, and I asked Judge Douglas, piece by piece, to put his finger upon one piece of all that evidence that he would say was a forgery! When I went through with each and every piece, Judge Douglas did not dare then to say that any piece of it was a forgery. [Laughter, and cries of ‘good, good.’] So it seems that there are some things that Judge Douglas dares to do, and some that he dares not to do. [Great applause and laughter.]

A VOICE — It’s the same thing with you.

MR. LINCOLN — Yes, sir, it’s the same thing with me. I do dare to say forgery, when it’s true, and I don’t dare to say forgery when it’s false. [Thunders of applause. Cries of ‘Hit him again,’ ‘Give it to him, Lincoln.’] Now, I will say here to this audience and to Judge Douglas, I have not dared to say he committed a forgery, and I never shall until I know it; but I did dare to say — just to suggest to the Judge — that a forgery had been committed, which by his own showing had been traced to him and two of his friends. [Roars of laughter and loud cheers.] I dared to suggest to him that he had expressly promised in one of his public speeches to investigate that matter, and I dared to suggest to him that there was an implied promise that when he investigated it he would make known the result. I dared to suggest to the Judge that he could not expect to be quite clear of suspicion of that fraud, for since the time that promise was made he had been with those friends, and had not kept his promise in regard to the investigation and the report upon it. [Loud laughter. Cries of ‘Good, good,’ ‘Hit him hard.’] I am not a very daring man, [laughter] but I dared that much, Judge, and I am not much scared about it yet. [Uproarious laughter and applause.] When the Judge says he wouldn’t have believed of Abraham Lincoln that he would have made such an attempt as that, he reminds me of the fact that he entered upon this canvass with the purpose to treat me courteously; that touched me somewhat. [Great laughter.] It sets me to thinking. I was aware, when it was first agreed that Judge Douglas and I were to have these seven joint discussions, that they were the successive acts of a drama — perhaps I should say to be enacted not merely in the face of audiences like this, but in the face of the nation, and to some extent, by my relation to him, and not from anything in myself, in the face of the world; and I am anxious that they should be conducted with dignity and in the good temper which would be befitting the vast audience before which it was conducted. But when Judge Douglas got home from Washington and made his first speech in Chicago, the evening afterwards I made some sort of a reply to it. His second speech was made at Bloomington, in which, he commented upon my speech at Chicago, and said that I had used language ingeniously contrived to conceal my intentions, or words to that effect. Now, I understand that this is an imputation upon my veracity and my candor. I do not know what the Judge understood by it; but in our first discussion at Ottawa, he led off by charging a bargain, somewhat corrupt in its character, upon Trumbull and myself — that we had entered into a bargain, one of the terms of which was that Trumbull was to abolitionize the old Democratic party, and I (Lincoln) was to abolitionize the old Whig party — I pretending to be as good as an Old Line Whig as ever. Judge Douglas may not understand that he implicated my truthfulness and my honor, when he said I was doing one thing and pretending another; and I misunderstood him if he thought he was treating me in a dignified way, as a man of honor and truth, as he now claims he was disposed to treat me. Even after that time, at Galesburg, when he bring forward an extract from a speech made at Chicago, and an extract from a speech made at Charleston, to prove that I was trying to play a double part — that I was trying to cheat the public, and get votes upon one set of principles at one place and upon another set of principles at another place — I do not understand but what he impeaches my honor, my veracity and my candor, and because he does this, I do not understand that I am bound, if I see a truthful ground for it, to keep my hands off of him. As soon as I learned that Judge Douglas was disposed to treat me in this way, I signified in one of my speeches that I should be driven to draw upon whatever of humble resources I might have — to adopt a new course with him. I was not entirely sure that I should be able to hold my own with him, but I at least had the purpose made to do as well as I could upon him; and now I saw that I will not be the first to cry ‘hold.’ I think it originated with the Judge, and when he quits, I probably will. [Roars of laughter.] But I shall not ask any favors at all. He asks me, or he asks the audience, if I wish to push this matter to the point of personal difficulty. I tell him, no. He did not make a mistake, in one of his early speeches, when he called me an ‘amiable’ man, though perhaps he did when he called me an ‘intelligent’ man. [Laughter.] It really hurts me very much to suppose that I have wrong anybody on earth. I again tell him, no! I very much prefer, when this canvass shall be over, however it may result, that we at least part without any bitter recollections of personal difficulties.

The Judge, in his concluding speech at Galesburg, says that I was pushing this matter to a personal difficulty, to avoid the responsibility for the enormity of my principles. I saw to the Judge and to this audience now, that I will again state our principles as well as I hastily can in all their enormity, and if the Judge hereafter chooses to confine himself to a war upon these principles, he will probably not find me departing from the same course.

We have in this nation this element of domestic slavery. It is a matter of absolute certainty that it is a disturbing element. It is the opinion of all the great men who have expressed an opinion upon it, that it is a dangerous element. We keep up an controversy in regard to it. That controversy necessarily springs from difference of opinion, and if we can learn exactly — can reduce to the lowest elements — what that difference of opinion, reduced to its lowest terms, is no other than the difference between the men who think slavery a wrong and those who do not think it wrong. The Republican party think it wrong — we think it a moral, a social and a political wrong. We think it is a wrong not confining itself merely to the persons or the States where it exists, but that it is a wrong in its tendency, to say the least, that extends itself to the existence of the whole nation. Because we think it wrong, we propose a course of policy that shall deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any wrong, in so far as we can prevent its growing any larger, and so deal with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of an end to it. We have a due regard to the actual presence of it amongst us and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way, and all the constitutional obligations thrown about it. I suppose that in reference both to its actual existence in the nation, and to our constitutional obligations, we have no right at all to disturb it in the States where it exists, and we profess that we have no more inclination to disturb it than we have the right to do it. We go further than that; we don’t propose to disturb it where, in one instance, we think the Constitution would permit us. We think the Constitution would permit us to disturb it in the District of Columbia. Still we do not propose to do that, unless it should be terms which I don’t suppose the nation is very likely soon to agree to — the terms of making the emancipation gradual and compensating the unwilling owners. Where we suppose we have the constitutional right, we restrain ourselves in reference to the actual existence of the institution and the difficulties thrown about it. We also oppose it as an evil so far as it seeks to spread itself. We insist on the policy that shall restrict it to its present limits. We don’t suppose that in doing this we violate anything due to the actual presence of the institution, or anything due to the constitutional guarantees thrown around it.

We oppose the Dred Scott decision in a certain way, upon which I ought perhaps to address you a few words. We do not propose that when Dred Scott has been decided to be a slave by the court, we, as a mob, will decide him to be free. We do not propose that, when any other one, or one thousand, shall be decided by that court to be slaves, we will in any violent way disturb the rights of property thus settled; but we nevertheless do oppose that decision as a political rule which shall be binding on the voter, to vote for nobody who thinks it wrong, which shall be binding on the members of Congress or the President to favor no measure that does not actually concur with the principles of that decision. We do not propose to be bound by it as a political rule in that way, because we think it lays the foundation not merely of enlarging and spreading out what we consider an evil, but it lays the foundation for spreading that evil into the States themselves. We propose so resisting it as to have it reversed if we can, and a new judicial rule established upon this subject.

I will add this, that if there be any man who does not believe that slavery is wrong in the three aspects which I have mentioned, or in any one of them, that man is misplaced, and ought to leave us. While, on the other hand, if there be any man in the Republican party who is impatient over the necessity springing from its actual presence, and is impatient of the constitutional guarantees thrown around it, and would act in disregard of these, he too is misplaced standing with us. He will find his placed somewhere else; for we have a due regard, so far as we are capable of understanding them, for all these things. This, gentlemen, as well as I can give it, is a plain statement of our principles in all their enormity.

I will say now that there is a sentiment in the country contrary to me — a sentiment which holds that slavery is not wrong, and therefore it goes for policy that does not propose dealing with it as a wrong. That policy is the Democratic policy, and that sentiment is the Democratic sentiment. If there be a doubt in the mind of any one of this vast audience that this is really the central idea of the Democratic party, in relation to this subject, I ask him to prove that proposition. In the first place, the leading man — I think I may do my friend Judge Douglas the honor of calling him such — advocating the present Democratic policy, never himself says it is wrong. He has the high distinction, so far as I know, of never having said slavery is either right or wrong. [Laughter.] Almost everybody else says one or the other, but the Judge never does. If there be a man in the Democratic party who thinks it is wrong, and yet clings to that party, I suggest to him in the first place that his leader don’t talk as he does, for he never says that it is wrong. In the second place, I suggest to him that if he will examine the policy proposed to be carried forward, he will find that carefully excludes the idea that there is anything wrong in it. If you will examine the arguments that are made on it, you will find that every one carefully excludes the idea that there is anything wrong in slavery. Perhaps that Democrat who says he is as much opposed to slavery as I am, will tell me that I am wrong about this. I wish him to examine his own course in regard to this matter a moment, and then see if his opinion will not be changed a little. You say it is wrong; but don’t you constantly object to anybody else saying so? Do you not constantly argue that this is not the right place to oppose it? You say it must not be opposed in the free States, because slavery is not there; it must not be opposed in politics, because that will make a fuss; it must not be opposed in the pulpit, because it is not religion. [Loud cheers.] Then where is the place to oppose it? There is no suitable place to oppose it. There is no place in the country to oppose this evil overspreading the continent, which you say yourself is coming. Frank Blair and Gratz Brown tried to get up a system of gradual emancipation in Missouri, had an election in August and got beat, and you, Mr. Democrat, threw up your hat, and halloed ‘hurrah for Democracy.’ [Enthusiastic cheers.] So I say again that in regard to the arguments that are made, when Judge Douglas says he ‘don’t care whether slavery is voted up or voted down,’ whether he means that as an individual expression of sentiment, or only as a sort of statement of his views on national policy, it is alike true to say that he can thus argue logically if he don’t see anything wrong in it; but he cannot say so logically if he admits that slavery is wrong. He cannot say that he would as soon see a wrong voted up as voted down. When Judge Douglas says that whoever, or whatever community, wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is perfectly logical if there is nothing wrong in the institution, but if you admit that is wrong, he cannot logically say that that anybody has a right to do wrong. When he says that slave property, and horse and hog property are alike to be allowed to go into the Territories, upon the principles of equality, he is reasoning truly, if there is no difference between them as property; but if the one is property, held rightfully, and the other is wrong, then there is no equality between the right and wrong; so that, turn it in any way you can, in all the arguments sustaining the Democratic policy, and in that policy itself, there is a careful, studied exclusion of the idea that there is anything wrong in slavery. Let us understand this. I am not, just here, trying to prove that we are right and they are wrong. I have been stating where we and they stand, and trying to show what is the real difference between us; and I now say that whenever we can get the question distinctly stated — can get all these men who believe that slavery is in some of these respects wrong, to stand and act with us in treating it as a wrong — then, and not till then, I think we will in some way come to an end of this slavery agitation. [Prolonged cheers.]6


On take the stand, Mr. Lincoln was received with a tremendous cheer. He said:

MY FRIENDS: — Since Judge Douglas has said to you in his conclusion that he had not time in an hour and a half to answer all I had said in an hour, it follows of course that I will not be able to answer in half an hour all that he said in an hour and a half. [Cheers and laughter.]

I wish to return Judge Douglas my profound thanks for his public annunciation here to-day, to be put on record, that his system of policy in regard to the institution of slavery contemplates that it shall last forever. [Great cheers, and cries of ‘Hit him again.’] I am profoundly grateful for this one sentence. Judge Douglas asks you ‘why cannot the institution of slavery, or rather, why cannot the nation, part slave and part free, continue as our fathers made it forever? In the first place, I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time. [‘Good,’ ‘Good,’ ‘That’s true.’] When Judge Douglas undertakes to say that as a matter of choice the fathers of the government made this nation part slave trade, adopted a system of restricting it from the new Territories where it had not existed, I maintain that they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction [that’s so’]; and when Judge Douglas asks me why it cannot continue as our fathers made it, I ask him why he and his friends could not let it remain as our fathers made it? [Tremendous cheering.]

It is precisely all I ask of him in relation to the institution of slavery, that it shall be placed upon the basis that our fathers placed it upon. Mr. [Preston] Brooks, of South Carolina, once said, and truly said, that when this government was established, no one expected the institution of slavery to last until this day; and that the men who formed this government were wiser and better than the men of these days; but the men of these days had experience which the fathers had not, and that experience had taught them the invention of the cotton gin, and this had made the perpetuation of the institution of slavery a necessity in this country. Judge Douglas could not let it stand upon the basis upon which our fathers placed it, but removed it and put it upon the cotton gin basis. [Roars of laughter and enthusiastic applause.] It is a question, therefore, for him and his friends to answer — why they could not let it remain where the fathers of the government originally placed it. [Cheers, and cries of ‘Hurrah for Lincoln!’ ‘Good!’ ‘Good!’]

I hope nobody has understood me as trying to sustain the doctrine that we have a right to quarrel with Kentucky, or Virginia, or any of the slave States, about the institution of slavery — thus giving the Judge an opportunity to make himself eloquent and valiant against us in fighting for their rights. I expressly declared in my opening speech, that I had neither the inclination to exercise, nor the belief in the existence of the right to interfere with the States of Kentucky or Virginia in doing as they pleased with slavery or any other existing institution. [Loud applause.] Then what becomes of all his eloquence in behalf of the rights of States, which are assailed by no living man? [Applause. ‘He knows it’s all humbuggery.’]

But I have to hurry on, for I have but a half hour. The Judge has informed, or informed this audience, that the Washington Union is laboring for my election to the United States Senate. [Cheers and laughter.] That is news to me — not very ungrateful news either. [Turning to Mr. Wm. H. Carlin, who was on the stand] — I hope that Carlin will be elected to the State Senate and will vote for me. [Mr. Carlin shook his head.] Carlin don’t fall in, I perceive, and I suppose he will not do much for me [laughter], but I am glad of all the support I can get anywhere, if I can get it without practicing any deception to obtain it. In respect to this large portion of Judge Douglas’ speech, in which he tries to show that in the controversy between himself and the administration party he is in the right, I do not feel myself at all competent or inclined to answer him. I say to him, ‘Give it to them [laughter] — give it to them just all you can’ [renewed laughter and cheers] — and, on the other hand, I say to Carlin, and Jake Davis, and to this man ‘Wagley up here in Hancock, ‘Give it to Douglas [roars and laughter] — just pour it into him.’ [Cheers and laughter — ‘Good for you,’ ‘Hurrah for Lincoln!’]

Now in regard to this matter of the Dred Scott decision, I wish to say a word or two. After all, the Judge will not say whether, if a decision is made holding that the people of the States cannot exclude slavery, he will support it or not. He obstinately refuses to say what he will do in that case. The Judges of the Supreme Court as obstinately refused to say what they would do on this subject. Before this I reminded him that at Galesburg he had said the Judges had expressly declared the contrary, and you remember that my opening speech I told him I had the book containing that decision here, and I would thank him to lay his finger on the place where any such thing was said. He was occupied his hour and a half, and he has not ventured to try to sustain his assertion. [Loud cheers.] He never will. [Renewed cheers.] But he is desirous of knowing how we are going to reverse the Dred Scott decision. Judge Douglas ought to know how. Did not he and his political friends find a way to reverse the decision of that same Court in favor of the constitutionality of the National Bank? [Cheers and laughter.] Didn’t they find a way to do it so effectually that they have reversed it as completely as any decision ever was reversed — so far as its practical operation is concerned? [Cheers, and cries of ‘good,’ ‘good.’] And let me ask you, didn’t Judge Douglas find a way to reverse the decision of our Supreme Court, when it decided that Carlin’s father — old Governor Carlin — had not the constitutional power to remove a Secretary of State? [Great cheering and laughter.] Did he not appeal to the ‘MOBS’ as he calls them? Did he not make speeches in the lobby to show how villainous that decision was, and how it ought to be overthrown? Did he not succeed too in getting an act passed by the Legislature to have it overthrown? And didn’t he himself sit down on that bench as one of the five added judges, who were to overslaugh the four old ones — getting his name of ‘Judge’ in that way and no other? [Thundering cheers and laughter.] If there is a villainy in using disrespect or making opposition to Supreme Court decisions, I commend it to Judge Douglas’ earnest consideration. [Cheers and laughter.] I know of no man in the State of Illinois who ought to know so well about how much villainy it takes to oppose a decision of the Supreme Court, as our honorable friend, Stephen A. Douglas. [Long continued applause.]

Judge Douglas also makes the declaration that I say the Democrats are bound by the Dred Scott decision while the Republicans are not. In the sense in which he argues, I never said it; but I will tell you what I have said and what I do not hesitate to repeat today. I have said that as the Democrats believe that decision to be correct and that the extension of slavery is affirmed in the National Constitution, they are bound to support it as such; and I will tell you here that General Jackson once said each man was bound to support the Constitution ‘as he understood it.’ Now, Judge Douglas understands the Constitution according to the Dred Scott decision, and he is bound to support it as he understands it. [Cheers.] I understand it another way, and therefore I am bound to support it in the way in which I understand it. [Prolonged applause.] And as Judge Douglas believes that decision to be correct, I will remake that argument if I have time to do so. Let me talk to some gentleman down there among you who looks me in the face. We will say you are a member of the Territorial Legislature, and like Judge Douglas, you believe that the right to take and hold slaves there is a constitutional right. The first thing you do is to swear you will support the Constitution and all rights guaranteed therein; that you will, whenever your neighbor needs your legislation to support his constitutional rights, not withhold that legislation. If you withhold that necessary legislation for the support of the Constitution and constitutional rights, do you not commit perjury? {Cries of ‘Yes.’] I ask every sensible man, if that is not so? [‘Yes, yes’ — ‘That’s a fact.’] That is undoubtedly just so, say what you please. Now that is precisely what Judge Douglas says, that this is a constitutional right. Does the Judge mean to say that the Territorial Legislature in legislating may be by withholding necessary laws, or by passing unfriendly laws, nullify that constitutional right? Does he man to say that? Does he mean to ignore the proposition so long known and well established in the law, that what you cannot do directly, you cannot do indirectly? Does he mean that? The truth about the matter is this: Judge Douglas has sung paeans to his ‘Popular Sovereignty’ doctrine until his Supreme Court cooperating with him has squatted his Squatter Sovereignty out. [Uproarious laughter and applause.] But he will keep up this species of humbuggery about Squatter Sovereignty. He has at last invented this sort of do nothing Sovereignty — [renewed laughter] — that the people may exclude slavery by a sort of ‘Sovereignty’ that is exercised by doing nothing at all. [Continued laughter.] Is not that running his Popular Sovereignty down awfully? [Laughter.] Has it not got down as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death? [Roars of laughter and cheering.] But at last, when it is brought to test of close reasoning, there is not even that thin decoction of it left. It is a presumption impossible in the domain of thought. It is precisely no other than the putting of that most unphilosophical proposition, that two bodies may occupy the same space at the same time. The Dred Scott decision covers the whole ground, and while it occupies it, there is no room even for the shadow of a starved pigeon to occupy the same ground. [Great cheering and laughter.]

A VOICE, on the platform — ‘Your time is almost out.’ [Loud cries of ‘Go on, go on’ — ‘We’ll listen all day.’]

Well, I’ll talk to you a little longer. Judge Douglas, in reply to what I have said about having upon a previous occasion made the speech at Ottawa as the one he took an extract from, at Charleston, says it only shows that I practiced the deception twice. Now, my friends, are any of you obtuse enough to swallow that? [‘No, non, we’re not such fools.’] Judge Douglas had said I had made a speech at Charleston that I would not make up north, and I turned around and answered him by showing I had made that same speech up north — had made it at Ottawa — made it in his hearing — made it in the Abolition District — in the same atmosphere exactly in which I had made my Chicago speech of which he complains so much.

Now, in relation to my not having said anything about the quotation from the Chicago speech: He thinks that is a terrible subject for me to handle. Why, gentlemen, I can show you that the substance of the Chicago speech I delivered two years ago in ‘Egypt,’ as he calls it. It was down at Springfield. That speech is here in this book, and I could turn to it and read it to you but for the lack of time. I have not now the time to read it. [‘Read it, read it, read it.’] No, gentlemen, I am obliged to use discretion in disposing most advantageously of my brief time. The Judge has taken great exception to my adopting the heretical statement in the Declaration of Independence, that ‘all men are created equal,’ and he has a great deal to say about negro equality. I want to say that in sometimes alluding to the Declaration of Independence, I have only uttered the sentiments that Henry Clay used to hold. Allow me to occupy your time a moment with what he said. Mr. Clay was at one time called upon in Indiana, and in a way that I suppose was very insulting, to liberate his slaves, and he made a written reply to that application, and one portion of it is in these words:

What is the foundation of this appeal to me in Indiana, to liberate the slaves under my care in Kentucky? It is a general declaration in the act announcing to the world the independence of the thirteen American colonies, that ‘men are created equal.’ Now, as an abstract principle, there is no doubt of the truth of that declaration, and it is desirable in the original construction of society, and in organized societies, to keep it in view as a great fundamental principle.

[Loud cheers. ‘Hurrah for Clay.”] When I sometimes, in relation to the organization of new societies in new countries, where the soil is clean and clear, insisted that we should keep that principle in view, Judge Douglas will have it that I want a negro wife. [Great laughter.] He never can be brought to understand that there is any middle ground on this subject. I have lived until my fiftieth year, and have never had a negro woman either for a slave or a wife, [cheers] and I think I can live fifty centuries, for that matter, without having had one for either. [Cheers and laughter.] I maintain that you may take Judge Douglas’ quotations from my Chicago speech, and from my Charleston speech, and the Galesburg speech, — in his speech of to-day, and compare them over, and I am willing to trust them with you upon his proposition that they show rascality or double dealing. I deny that they do. [Great applause.]

The Judge does not seem at all disposed to have peace, but I find he is disposed to have a personal warfare with me. He says that my oath would not be taken against the bare word of Charles H. Lanphier or Thomas L. Harris. Well, that is altogether a matter of opinion. [Laughter] It is certainly not for me to vaunt my word against oaths of these gentlemen, but I will tell Judge Douglas again the facts upon which I ‘dared’ to say they proved a forgery. I pointed out at Galesburg that the publication of these resolutions in the Illinois State Register could not have been the result of accident, as the proceedings of that meeting bore unmistakable evidence of being done by a man who knew it was a forgery; that it was a publication partly from the proceedings of a convention at another place; which showed that he had the real proceedings before him, and taking one part of the resolutions, he threw out another part and substituted false and fraudulent ones in their stead. I pointed that out to him, and also that his friend Lanphier, who was editor of the Register at that time and now is, must have know how it was done. Now whether he did it or got some friend to do it for him, I could not tell, but he certainly knew all about it. I pointed out to Judge Douglas that in his Freeport speech he had promised to investigate that matter. Does he now say he did not make that promise? [‘No,’ ‘No.’] I have a right to ask why he did not keep it? [Tremendous applause.] I call upon him to tell here to-day why he did not keep that promise. That fraud has been traced up so that it lies between him. Harris and Lanphier. There is little room for escape for Lanphier. [Laughter.] Lanphier is doing the Judge good service, and Douglas desires his word to be taken for the truth. He desires Lanphier to be taken as authority in what he states in his newspaper. He desires Harris to be taken as a man of vast credibility, and when this thing lies among them, they will not press it to show where the guilt really belongs. Now, as he has said that he would investigate it, and implied that he would tell us the result of his investigation, I demand of him to tell why he did not investigate it, if he did not; and if he did, why he won’t tell the result. [Great cheers.] I call upon him for that.

This is the third time that Judge Douglas has assumed that he learned about these resolutions by Harris’ attempting to use them against Norton on the floor of Congress. I tell Judge Douglas the public records of the country show that he himself attempted it upon Trumbull a month before Harris tried them on Norton [great applause] — that Harris had the opportunity of learning it from him, rather than he from Harris. I now ask his attention to that part of the record on the case. My friends, I am not disposed to detain you longer in regard to that matter.

I am told that I still have five minutes left. There is another matter I wish to call attention to. He says, when he discovered there was a mistake in that case, he came forward magnanimously, without my calling his attention to it, and explained it. I will tell you how he became so magnanimous. When the newspapers of our side had discovered and published it, and put it beyond his power to deny it, then he came forward and made a virtue of necessity by acknowledging it. [Great applause.] Now he argues that all the point there was in those resolutions, although never passed at Springfield, is retained by their being passed at other localities. Is that true? He said I had a hand in passing them, in his opening speech — that I was in the Convention and helped to pass them. Do the resolutions touch me at all? It strikes me there is some difference between holding a man responsible for an act which he has not done, and holding him responsible for an act that he has done. You will judge whether there is any difference in the ‘spots.’ [Laughter and cheers.] And he has taken credit for great magnanimity in coming forward and acknowledging what is proved on him beyond even the capacity of Judge Douglas to deny, and he has more capacity in that way than any other living man. [Laughter and cheers.]

Then he wants to know why I won’t withdraw the charge in regard to a conspiracy to make slavery national, as he has withdrawn the one he made. May it please his worship, I will withdraw it when it is proven false on me as that was proved false on him. [Shouts of applause and laughter.] I will add a little more than that. I will withdraw it whenever a reasonable man shall be brought to believe that the charge is not true. [Renewed applause.] I have asked Judge Douglas’ attention to certain matters of fact tending to prove the charge of a conspiracy to nationalize slavery, and he say she convinces me that this is all untrue because Buchanan was not in the country at that time, and because the Dred Scott case had not then got into the Supreme Court; and he says that I say the Democratic owners of Dred Scott got up the case. I never did say that. [Applause.] I defy Judge Douglas to show that I ever said so for I never uttered it. [One of Mr. Douglas’s reporters gesticulated affirmatively at Mr. Lincoln.] I don’t care if your hireling does say I did, I tell you myself that I never said the ‘Democratic’ owners of Dred Scott got up the case. [Tremendous enthusiasm.] I have never pretended to know whether Dred Scott’s owners were Democrats or Abolitionists, or Free Soilers or Border Ruffians. I have said that there is evidence about the case tending to show that it was a made up case, for the purpose of getting that decision. I have said that that evidence was very strong in the fact that when Dred Scott was declared to be a slave, the owner of him made him free, showing that he had had the case tried and the question settled for such use as could be made of that decision; he cared nothing about the property thus declared to be his by that decision. [Enthusiastic applause.] But my time is out and I can say no more.7


  1. David Zarefsky, Lincoln Douglas and Slavery in the Crucible of Public Debate, p. 63.
  2. Carl Schurz, Reminiscences of Carl Schurz, Volume II, p. 89-98.
  3. John T. Morse, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Volume I, p. 134.
  4. William Lee Miller, Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography, .
  5. Allen Thorndike Rice, editor, Reminiscences of Lincoln, p. 440-445.
  6. Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume III, p. 245-257 (as reported in the Press & Tribune. Douglas as reported in the Chicago Times).
  7. Roy P. Basler, editor, The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume III, p. 275-283.