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Charleston, Coles County, September 18, 1858"Saturday, September 18, 1858, was the biggest day in the history of Charleston, that quiet little county seat amid the cornfields of eastern Illinois. It was the day that Abraham Lincoln met Senator Stephen Arnold Douglas in the fourth of their seven historic debates for the United States Senate," wrote Charles A. Coleman in Abraham Lincoln and Coles County, Illinois.1
Mr. Lincoln was in familiar territory. This was the county where his step-mother lived on a farm where his father had died seven years earlier. Mr. Lincoln greeted his step-mother during a post-debate parade. "This was in Lincoln's old circuit, where he was personally known, and popular, but a majority of the people were politically opposed to him," wrote Lincoln biographer Isaac Arnold. "There was a vast throng, eager to witness the contest. Many were in wagons, having taken with them their provisions, and camping out in the groves at night. It was estimated that twenty thousand people were in attendance." Isaac Arnold wrote:
"This was the fourth joint discussion, and no one who witnessed it could ever after doubt Lincoln's ample ability to meet Douglas. The 'little giant' and his friends, had learned that there were blows to be received, as well as to be given. The Senator, who had begun the canvass at Ottawa, aggressive and overbearing, had learned caution, and that he must husband his resources. Ugly questions had been propounded to him, which it was difficult for him to answer. His action in relation to the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which he was trying to justify, enabled Lincoln to keep him on the defensive. In reply to Douglas's charge against Lincoln, of arousing sectional feeling, and leading a sectional party, the reply was already ready: 'It was you, Douglas, that started the great conflagration; it was you that set the dry prairie on fire, by repealing the Missouri Compromise.'
Future Illinois Governor Richard Oglesby addressed a post-debate crowd that night and later recorded his impressions of the event. Oglesby biographer Mark A. Plummer wrote: "Oglesby's descriptions of Lincoln and Douglas at Charleston, given to Arnold twenty-five years later, are partisan and clouded by the passage of time, but they may be partially corroborated. In 1883 Oglesby wrote that 'Douglas was manifestly tiring' and 'petulant,' whereas 'Lincoln was calm – grave and impressive like one who already feels the goal of ambition attained.' Only three days after the debate, Oglesby wrote to his law partner that Lincoln's speech was a 'most full and complete triumph' over Douglas. The defeat, he added, had taken its toll on Douglas, who 'writhed and winced and left the stand in bad humor.' Lew Wallace, the future author of Ben Hur, was also in attendance. A Douglas Democrat at the time, he nonetheless noted that Douglas's 'face [was] darkened by a deepening scowl, and he was angry.' Although Wallace initially laughed at Lincoln's appearance, he soon noted that 'he was easy and perfectly self-possessed' and concluded that 'Mr. Lincoln's speech was a defense of Freedom.'"2
Lincoln legal colleague Ward Hill Lamon reflected much greater anxiety at the course of the debate. In his memoirs, he recalled how assaults on Mr. Lincoln's record on Mexican-American War irritated him: :
Judge Douglas spoke first, and so great was the enthusiasm excited by his speech that Mr. Lincoln's friends became apprehensive of trouble. When spoken to on the subject he said: 'I am not going to be terrified by an excited populace, and hindered from speaking my honest sentiments upon this infernal subject of human slavery.' He rose, took off his hat, and stood before that audience for a considerable space of time in a seemingly reflective mood, looking over the vast throng of people as if making a preliminary survey of their tendencies. He then bowed, and commenced by saying: 'My fellow-citizens, I learned that my friend Judge Douglas said in a public speech that I, while in Congress, had voted against the appropriation for supplies to the Mexican soldiers during the late war. This, fellow-citizens, is a perversion of the facts. It is true that I was opposed to the policy of the Administration in declaring war against Mexico; but when war was declared, I never failed to vote for the support of any proposition looking to the comfort of our poor fellows who were maintain g the dignity of our flay in a war I thought unnecessary and unjust. He] gradually became more and more excited; his voice thrilled and his whole frame shook. I was at the time sitting on the stand beside Hon. O.B. Ficklin, who had served in Congress with Mr. Lincoln in 1847. Mr. Lincoln reached back and took Ficklin by the coat-collar, back of his neck, and in no gentle manner lifted him from his seat as if he had been a kitten, and said: 'Fellow-citizens, here is Ficklin, who was at that time in Congress with me, and he knows it is a lie.' He shook Ficklin until his teeth chattered. Fearing that he would shake Ficklin's head off, I grasped Mr. Lincoln's hand and broke his grip. Mr. Ficklin sat down, and Lincoln continued his address.
According to Lincoln chronicler Charles A. Coleman, "The huge crowd listened with close attention to both debaters. The speeches were punctuated by applause, quickly suppressed so that no words would be lost. The quiet was such that those sitting on the east and south fences of the fair grounds could follow the speakers. When Lincoln ended his closing speech he was cheered enthusiastically, following which the crowd dispersed, the bands of music and carriages forming impromptu parades back to town. Lincoln and Douglas left the platform side by side. Mrs. Douglas had been with Mrs. Ficklin during the debate, and returned to town in the Ficklin carriage. The handsome Mrs. Douglas wore a lavender checked silk dress and a pretty bonnet."4
After the debate, Mr. Lincoln apparently showed his exasperation with Senator Douglas. "I flatter myself that thus far my wife has not found it necessary to follow me around from place to place to keep me from getting drunk," Mr. Lincoln reportedly said to a group of his supporters and relatives. He was referring to fact that Senator Douglas's new, young wife had accompanied him wherever he went on the campaign trail.5
AT CHARLESTON, ILLINOIS
September 18, 1858
Fourth joint debate September 18. 1858. Lincoln, as reported in the Press & Tribune. Douglas, as reported in the Chicago Times.
Mr. Lincoln took the stand at a quarter before three, and was greeted with vociferous and protracted applause; after which, he said:
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: It will be very difficult for an audience so large as this to hear distinctly what a speaker says, and consequently it is important that as profound silence be preserved as possible.
While I was at hotel to-day an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. [Great laughter.] While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. 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, [applause] – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, not 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 I believe will for 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 and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position the negro should be denied everything. I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never had a black woman for either a slave or a wife. So it seems to me quite possible for us to get along without making either slaves or wives of negroes. I will add to this that I have never seen to my knowledge a man, woman or child who was in favor of producing a perfect equality, social and political, between negroes and white men. I recollect of but one distinguished instance that I ever heard of so frequently as to be entirely satisfied of its correctness – and that is the case of Judge Douglas' old friend Col. Richard M. Johnson. [Laughter.] I will also add to the remarks I have made, (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.] I will add one further word, which is this, that I do not understand there is any place where an alteration of the social and political relations of the negro and the white man can be made except in the State Legislature – not in the Congress of the United States – and as I do not really apprehend the approach of any such thing myself, and as Judge Douglas seems to be in constant horror that some such danger is rapidly approaching, I propose as the best means to prevent it that the Judge be kept at home and placed in the State Legislature to fight the measure. [Uproarious laughter and applause.] I do not propose dwelling longer at this time on the subject.
When Judge [Lyman] Trumbull, our other Senator in Congress, returned to Illinois in the month of August, he made a speech at Chicago in which he made what may be called a charge against Judge Douglas, which I understand proved to be very offensive to him. The Judge was at that time out upon one of his speaking tours through the country, and when the news of it reached him, as I am informed, he denounced Judge Trumbull in rather harsh terms for having said what he did in regard to that matter. I was traveling at that time and speaking at the same places with Judge Douglas on subsequent days, and when I heard of what Judge Trumbull had said of Douglas and what Douglas had said back again, I felt that I was in a position where I could not remain entirely silent in regard to the matter. Consequently upon two or three occasions I alluded to it, and alluded to it in no other wise than to say that in regard to the charge brought by Trumbull against Douglas, I personally knew nothing and sought to say nothing about it – that I did personally know Judge Trumbull – that I believed him to be a man of veracity – that I believed him to be a man of capacity sufficient to know very well whether an assertion he was making a conclusion drawn from a set of facts, was true or false; and as a conclusion of my own from that, I stated it as my belief, if Trumbull should ever be called upon he would prove everything he had said. I said this upon two or three occasions. Upon a subsequent occasion, Judge Trumbull spoke again before an audience at Alton, and upon that occasion not only repeated his charge against Douglas, but arrayed the evidence he relied upon to substantiate it. This speech was published at length; and subsequently at Jacksonville Judge Douglas alluded to the matter. IN the course of his speech, and near the close of it, he stated in regard to myself what I will now read: 'Judge Douglas proceeded to remark that he should not hereafter occupy his time in refuting such charges made by Trumbull, but that Lincoln having indorsed the character of Trumbull for veracity, he should hold him (Lincoln) responsible for the slanders.' I have done simply what I have told you, to subject me to this invitation to notice the charge. I now wish to say that it had not originally been my purpose to discuss that matter at all. But inasmuch as it seems to be the wish of Judge Douglas to hold me responsible for it, then for once in my life I will play General Jackson and to the just extent I take the responsibility. [Great applause and cries of 'good, good,' 'hurrah for Lincoln,' etc.]
I wish to say at the beginning that I will hand to the reporters that portion of Judge Trumbull's Alton speech made at Jacksonville in answer to it. I shall thereby furnish the readers of this debate with the complete discussion between Trumbull and Douglas. I cannot read them, for the reason that it would take half of my first hour to do so. I can only made some comments upon them. Trumbull's charge is in the following words: 'Now, the charge is, that there was a plot entered into to have a constitution formed for Kansas and put in force without giving the people an opportunity to vote upon it, and that Mr. Douglas was in the plot.' I will state, without quoting further, for all will have an opportunity of reading it hereafter, that Judge Trumbull brings forward what he regards as sufficient evidence to substantiate this charge.
[The extracts handed to our reporter by Mr. Lincoln are quite too lengthy to appear in this number of the PRESS AND TRIBUNE. Judge Trumbull's speech at Alton has already had a place in our columns, and Senator Douglas' remarks at Jacksonville are faithfully repeated in his portion of this (Charleston) debate.]
It will be perceived Judge Trumbull shows that Senator Bigler, upon the floor of the Senate, had declared there had been a conference among the Senators, in which conference it was determined to have an Enabling Act passed for the people of Kansas to form a Constitution under, and in this conference it was agreed among them that it was best not to have a provision for submitting the Constitution to a vote of the people after it should be formed. He then brings forward to show, and showing, as he deemed, that Judge Douglas reported the bill back to the Senate with that clause stricken out. He then shows that there was a new clause inserted into the bill, which would in its nature prevent a reference of the Constitution back for a vote of the people – if, indeed, upon a mere silence in the law, it could be assumed that they had the right to vote upon it. These are the general statements that he has made.
I propose to examine the points in Judge Douglas' speech, in which he attempts to answer that speech of Judge Trumbull's. When you come to examine Judge Douglas' speech, you will find that the first point he makes is – 'Suppose it were true that there was such a change in the bill, and that I truck it out – is that a proof of a plot to force a Constitution upon them against their will?' His striking out such a provision, if there was such a one in the bill, he argues does not establish the proof that it was stricken out for the purpose of robbing the people of that right. I would say, in the first place, that would be a most manifest reason for it. It is true, as Judge Douglas states, that many Territorial bills have passed without having such a provision in them. I believe it is true, though I am not certain, that in some instances, Constitutions framed, under such bills have been submitted to a vote of the people, with the law silent upon the subject, but it does not appear that they once had their Enabling Acts framed with an express provision for submitting the Constitution to be framed, to a vote of the people, and then that they were stricken out when Congress did not mean to alter the effect of the law. That there have been bills which never had the provision taken out of one that it was in? More especially does this evidence tend to prove the proposition that Trumbull advanced, when we remember that the provision was stricken out of the bill almost simultaneously with the time that Bigler says there was a conference among certain Senators, and in which it was agreed that a bill should be passed leaving that out. Judge Douglas, in answering Trumbull, omits to attend to the testimony of Bigler, that there was a meeting in which it was agreed they should so frame the bill that there should be no submission of the Constitution to a vote of the people. The Judge does not notice this part of it. If you take this as one piece of evidence, and then ascertain that simultaneously Judge Douglas struck out a provision that did require it to be submitted, and put the two together, I think it will make a pretty fair show of proof that Judge Douglas did, as Trumbull says, enter into a plot to put in force a Constitution for Kansas without giving the people any opportunity of voting upon it.
But I must hurry on. The next proposition that Judge Douglas puts is this: 'But upon examination it turns out that the [Robert] Toombs bill never did contain a clause requiring the Constitution to be submitted.' This is a mere question of fact, and can be determined by evidence. I only want to ask this question – Why did not Judge Douglas say that these words were not stricken out of the Toombs bill, or this bill from which it is alleged the provision was stricken out – a bill which goes by the name of Toombs, because he originally brought it forward? I ask why, if the Judge wanted to make a direct issue with Trumbull, did he not take the exact proposition Trumbull made in his speech, and say it was not stricken out? Trumbull has given the exact words that he says were in the Toombs bill, and he alleges that when the bill came back, they were stricken out. Judge Douglas does not say that the words which Trumbull says were stricken out, were not so stricken out, but he says there was no provision in the Toombs bill to submit the Constitution to a vote of the people. We see at once that he is merely making an issue upon the meaning of the words. He has not undertaken to say that Trumbull tells a lie about these words being stricken out; but he is really, when pushed up to it, only taking an issue upon the meaning of the words. Now then, if there be any issue upon the meaning of the words, of if there be upon the question of fact as to whether these words were stricken out, I have before me what I suppose to be a genuine copy of the Toombs bill, in which it can be shown that the words Trumbull says were in it, were, in fact, originally there. If there be any dispute upon the fact, I have got the documents here to show they were there. If there be any controversy upon the sense of the words – whether these words which were stricken out really constituted a provision for submitting the matter to a vote of the people, as that is a matter of argument, I think I may as well use Trumbull's own argument. He says that the proposition is in these words:
That the following propositions be and the same are hereby offered to the said convention of the people of Kansas when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection; which, if accepted by the convention and ratified by the people at the election for the adoption of the Constitution, shall be obligatory upon the United States and the said State of Kansas.
Now, Trumbull alleges that these last words were stricken out of the bill when it came back, and he says this was a provision for submitting the Constitution to a vote of the people, and his argument is this: 'Would it have been possible to ratify the land propositions at the election for the adoption of the Constitution, unless such an election was to be held?' [Applause and laughter.] That is Trumbull's argument. Now Judge Douglas does not meet the charge at all, but he stands up and says there was no such proposition in that bill for submitting the Constitution to be framed to a vote of the people. Trumbull admits that the language is not a direct provision for submitting it, but it is a provision necessarily implied from another provision. He asks you how it is possible to ratify the land proposition at the election for the adoption of the Constitution, if there was no election to be held for the adoption of the Constitution. And he goes on to show that it is not any less a law because the provision is put in that indirect shape that it would be if it was put directly. But I presume I have said enough to draw attention to this point, and I pass it by also.
Another one of the points that Judge Douglas makes upon Trumbull, and at very great length, is that Trumbull, while the bill was pending, said in a speech in the Senate that he supposed the Constitution to be made would have to be submitted to the people. He asks, if Trumbull thought so then, what ground is there for anybody thinking otherwise now? Fellow citizens, this much may be said in reply: That bill had been in the hands of a party to which Trumbull did not belong. It had been in the hands of a party to which Trumbull did not belong. It had been in the hands of the Committee at the head of which Judge Douglas stood. Trumbull perhaps had a printed copy of the original Toombs bill. I have not the evidence on that point, except a sort of inference I draw from the general course of business there. What alterations, of what provisions in the way of altering, were going on in committee. Trumbull had no means of knowing, until the altered bill was reported back. Soon afterwards, when it was reported back, there was a discussion over it, and perhaps Trumbull in reading it hastily in the altered form did not perceive all the bearings of the alterations. He was hastily borne into the debate, and it does not follow that because there was something in it Trumbull did not perceive, that something did not exist. More than this, is it true that what Trumbull did can have any effect on what Douglas did? [Applause.] Suppose Trumbull had been in the plot with these other men, would that let Douglas out of it? [Applause and laughter.] Would it exonerate Douglas that Trumbull didn't then perceive he was in the plot? He also asks the question: Why didn't Trumbull propose to amend the bill if he thought it needed any amendment? Why, I believe that everything Judge Trumbull had proposed, particularly in connection with this question of Kansas and Nebraska, since he had been on the floor of the Senate, had been promptly voted down by Judge Douglas and his friends. He had no promise that an amendment offered by him to anything on this subject would receive the slightest consideration. Judge Trumbull did bring to the notice of the Senate at that time the fact that there was no provision for submitting the Constitution about to be made for the people of Kansas, to a vote of the people. I believe I may venture to say that Judge Douglas made some reply to this speech of Judge Trumbull's, but he never noticed that part of it at all. And so the thing passed by, I think, then, the fact that Judge Trumbull offered no amendment, does not throw much blame upon him; and if it did, it does not reach the question of fact as to what Judge Douglas was doing. [Applause.] I repeat that if Trumbull had himself been in the plot, it would not at all relieve the others who were in it from blame. If I should be indicted for murder, and upon the trial it should be discovered that I had been implicated in that murder, but that the prosecuting witness was guilty too, that would not at all touch the question of my crime. I would be no relief to my neck that they discovered this other man who charged the crime upon me to be guilty too.
Another one of the points Judge Douglas makes upon Judge Trumbull is, that when he spoke in Chicago he made his charge to rest upon the fact that the bill had the provision in it for submitting the Constitution to a vote of the people, when it went into his (Judge Douglas') hands, that it was missing when he reported it to the Senate, and that in a public speech he had subsequently said the alteration in the bill was made while it was in committee, and that they were made in consultation between him (Judge Douglas) and Toombs. And Judge Douglas goes on to comment upon the fact of Trumbull's adducing in his Alton speech the proposition that the bill not only came back with that proposition stricken out, but with another clause and another provision it, saying that 'until the complete execution of this act there shall be no election in said Territory,' – which Trumbull argued was not only taking the provision for submitting to a vote of the people out of the bill, but was adding an affirmative one, in that it prevented the people from exercising the right under a bill that was merely silent on the question. Now in regard to what he says, that Trumbull shifts the issue – that he shifts the ground – and I believe it uses the term, that 'it being proven false, he has changed ground' – I call upon all of you, when you come to examine that portion of Trumbull's speech, (for it will make a part of mine,) to examine whether Trumbull has shifted his ground or not. I say he did not shift his ground, but that he brought forward his original charge and the evidence to sustain it yet more fully, but precisely as he originally made it. Then, in addition thereto, he brought in a new piece of evidence. He shifted no ground. He brought no new piece of evidence inconsistent with his former testimony, but he brought a new piece, tending, as he thought, and as I think, to prove his proposition. To illustrate: A man brings an accusation against another, and on trial the man making the charge introduces the same witnesses, who tell the same thing, and in addition, gives further testimony corrobative of the charge. So with Trumbull. There was no shifting of ground, nor inconsistency of testimony between the new piece of evidence and what he originally introduced.
But Judge Douglas says that he himself moved to strike out that last provision of the bill, and that on his motion it was stricken out and a substitute inserted. That I presume is the truth. I presume it is true that that last proposition was stricken out by Judge Douglas. Trumbull has not said it was not. Trumbull has himself said that it was so stricken out. He says: 'I am seeking of the bill as Judge Douglas reported it back. It was amended somewhat in the Senate before it passed, but I am speaking of it as he brought it back.' Now when Judge Douglas parades the fact that the provision was stricken out of the bill when it came back, he asserts nothing contrary tow hat Trumbull alleges. Trumbull has only said that he originally put it in – not that he did not strike it out. Trumbull says it was not in the bill when it went to the committee. When it came back it was in, and Judge Douglas said the alterations were made by him in consultation with Toombs. Trumbull alleges therefore as his conclusion that Judge Douglas put it in. Then if Douglas wants to contradict Trumbull and call him a liar, let him say he did not put it in , and not that he didn't take it out again. It is said that a bear is sometimes hard enough pushed to drop a cub, and so I presume it was in this case. [Loud applause.] I presume the truth is that Douglas put it in and afterwards took it out. [Laughter and cheers.] That I take it is the truth about it. Judge Trumbull says one thing; Douglas says another thing, and the two don't contradict one another at all. The question is, what did he put it in for? – the provision which Trumbull argued was necessary for submitting the Constitution to a vote of the people? What did he take that out for, and having taken it out, what did he put this in for? I say that in the run of things it is not unlikely forces conspire, to render it vastly expedient for Judge Douglas to take that latter clause out again. The question that Trumbull has made is that Judge Douglas put it in, and he don't meet Trumbull at all unless he denies that.
In the clause of Judge Douglas' speech upon this subject he uses this language towards Judge Trumbull. He says: 'He forges his evidence from the beginning to end, and by falsifying the record he endeavors to bolster up his false charge.' Well, that is a pretty serious statement. Trumbull forges his evidence from beginning to end. Now upon my own authority I say that it is not true. [Great cheers and laughter.] What is a forgery? Consider the evidence that Trumbull has brought forward. When you come to read the speeches, as you will be able to, examine whether the evidence is a forgery from beginning to end. He had the bill or document in his hand like that [holding up a paper.] He says that is a copy of the Toombs bill – the amendment offered by Toombs. He says that is a copy of the bill as it was introduced and went into Judge Douglas' hands. Now, does Judge Douglas say that is a forgery? That is one thing Trumbull brought forward. Judge Douglas says he forged it from beginning to end! That is the 'beginning,' we will say. Does Douglas say that is a forgery? Let him say it today and we will have a subsequent examination upon this subject. [Loud applause.] Trumbull then holds up another document like this and says that is an exact copy of the bill as it came back in the amended form out of Judge Douglas' hands. Does Judge Douglas say that is a forgery? Does he say it in his general sweeping charge? Does he say so now? If he does not, then take this Toombs bill and the bill in the amended form and it only needs to compare them to see that the provision is in the one and not in the other; it leaves the inference inevitable that it was taken out. [Applause.]
But while I am dealing with this question l et us see what Trumbull's other evidence is. One other piece of evidence I will read. Trumbull says there are in this original Toombs bill these words: 'That the following propositions be, and the same are hereby offered to the said convention of the people of Kansas, when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection; which, if accepted by the convention and ratified by the people at the election for the adoption of the constitution, shall be obligatory upon the United States and the said State of Kansas.' Now, if it said that this is a forgery, we will open the paper here and see whether it is or not. Again, Trumbull says as he goes along, that Mr. Bigler made the following statement in his place in the Senate, December 9, 1857.
I was present when that subject was discussed by Senators before the bill was introduced, and the question was raised and discussed, whether the constitution, when formed, should be submitted to a vote of the people. It was held by those most intelligent on the subject, that in view of all the difficulties surrounding that Territory, the danger of any experiment at that time of a popular vote, it would be better there should be no such provision in the Toombs bill; and it was my understanding, in all the intercourse I had, that the Convention would make a constitution, and send it here without submitting it to the popular vote.
Then Trumbull follows on: 'In speaking of this meeting again on the 21st December, 1857, (Congressional Globe, same vol., page 113,) Senator Bigler said:
Nothing was further from my mind than to allude to any social or confidential interview. The meeting was not of that character. Indeed, it was semi-official, and called to promote the public good. My recollection was clear that I left the conference under the impression that it had been deemed best to adopt measures to admit Kansas as a State through the agency of one popular election, and that for delegates to this Convention. This impression was stronger because I thought the spirit of the bill infringed upon the doctrine of non-intervention, to which I had great aversion; but with the hope of accomplishing a great good, and as no movement had been made in that direction in the Territory, I waived this objection, and concluded to support the measure. I have a few items of testimony as to the correctness of these impressions, and with their submission I shall be content. I have before me the bill reported by the Senator from Illinois on the 7th of March, 1856, providing for the admission of Kansas as a State, the third section of which reads as follows:
Now these things Trumbull says were stated by Bigler upon the floor of the Senate on certain days, and that they are recorded in the 'Congressional Globe' on certain pages. Does Judge Douglas say this is a forgery? Does he say there is no such thing in the 'Congressional Globe?' What doe she mean when he says Judge Trumbull forges his evidence from beginning to end? So again he says in another place, that Judge Douglas, in his speech Dec. 9, 1857, ('Congressional Globe,' part 1, page 15) stated:
That during the last session of Congress I [Mr. Douglas] reported a bill from the Committee on Territories, to authorize the people of Kansas to assemble and form a Constitution for themselves. Subsequently the Senator from Georgia [Mr. Toombs] brought forward a substitute for my bill, which, after having been modified by him and myself in consultation, was passed by the Senate.
Now Trumbull says this is a quotation from a speech of Douglas, and is record in the 'Congressional Globe.' Is it a forgery? Is it there or not? It may not be there, but I wan the Judge to take these pieces of evidence, and distinctly say they are forgeries if he dare do it. [Great applause.]
A VOICE – 'He will.'
MR. LINCOLN – Well, sire, you had better not commit him. [Cheers and laughter.] He gives other quotations – another from Judge Douglas. He says:
I will ask the Senator to show me an intimation, from any one member of the Senate, in the whole debate on the Toombs bill, and in the Union, from any quarter, that the Constitution was not to be submitted to the people. I will venture to say that on all sides of the chamber it was so understood at the time. If the opponents of the bill had understood it was not, they would have made the point on it; and if they had made it, we should certainly have yield to it; and put in the clause. That is a discovery made since the President found out that it was not safe to take it for granted that that would be done, which ought in fairness to have been done.
Judge Trumbull says Douglas made that speech and it is recorded. Does Judge Douglas say it is a forgery and was not true? Trumbull says somewhere, and I propose to skip it, but it will be found by any one who will read this debate, that he did distinctly bring it to the notice of those who were engineering the bill, that it lacked that provision, and then he goes on to give another quotation from Judge Douglas, where Judge Trumbull uses this language.
Judge Douglas, however, on the same day and in the same debate, probably recollecting or being reminded of the fact that I had objected to the Toombs bill when pending that it did not provide for a submission of the Constitution to the people, made another statement, which is to be found in the same volume of the Globe, page 22, in which he says:
So I say, I do not know whether Judge Douglas will dispute this, and yet I maintain his position that Trumbull's evidence 'was forged from beginning to end.' I will remark that I have not got these Congressional Globes with me. They are large books and difficult to carry about, and if Judge Douglas shall say that on these points where Trumbull has quoted from them, there are no such passages there, I shall not be able to prove they are there upon this occasion, but I will have another chance. Whenever he points out the forgery and says, 'I declare this particular thing which Trumbull has uttered is not to be found where he says it is,' then my attention will be drawn to that, and I will arm myself for the contest – staying now that I have not the slightest doubt on earth that I will find every quotation just where Trumbull says it is. Then the question is, how can Douglas call that a forgery? It is the bringing forward something in writing or in print purporting to be of certain effect when it is altogether untrue. If you come forward with my note for one hundred dollars when I have never given such a note, there is a forgery. If you come forward with a letter purporting to be written by me which I never wrote, there is another forgery. If you produce anything in writing or print saying it is so and so, the document not being genuine, a forgery has been committed. How do you make this a forgery when every piece of the evidence is genuine? If Judge Douglas does say these documents and quotations are false and forged he has a full right to do so, but until he does it specifically we don't know how to get at him. If he does say they are false and forged, I will then look further into it, and I presume I can procure the certificates of the proper officers that they are genuine copies. I have no doubt each of these extracts will be found exactly where Trumbull says it is. Then I leave it to you if Judge Douglas, in making his sweeping charge that Judge Trumbull's evidence is forged from beginning to end, at all meets the case – if that is the way to get at the facts, I repeat again, if he will point out which one is a forgery. I will carefully examine it, and if it proves that any one of them is really a forgery it will not be me who will hold to it any longer. I have always wanted to deal with every one I met candidly and honestly. If I have made any assertion not warranted by facts, and it pointed out to me, I will withdraw it cheerfully. But I do not choose to see Judge Trumbull calumniated, and the evidence he has brought forward branded in general terms, 'a forgery from beginning to end.' this is not the legal way of meeting a charge, and I submit to all intelligent persons, both friends of Judge Douglas and myself, whether it is.
Now coming back – how much time have I left?
The MODERATOR – Three minutes.
MR. LINCOLN – The point upon Judge Douglas is this. This bill that went into his hands had the provision in it for a submission of the constitution to the people; and I say its language amounts to an express provision for a submission, and that he took the provision out. He says it was known that the bill was silent in this particular, but I say, Judge Douglas, it was not silent when you got it. [Great applause.] It was vocal with the declaration when you got it, for a submission of the constitution to the people. And now, my direct question to Judge Douglas is, to answer why, if he deemed the bill silent on this point, he found it necessary to strike out those particular harmless words. If he had found the bill silent and without this provision, he might say what he does now. If he supposed it was implied that the constitution would be submitted to a vote of the people, how could these two lines so encumber the statute as to make it necessary to strike them out? How could he infer that a submission was still implied, after its express provision had been stricken from the bill? I find the bill vocal with the provision, while he silenced it. He took it out, and although he took out the other provision preventing a submission to a vote of the people. I ask, why did you first put it in? I ask him whether he took the original provision out, which Trumbull alleges was in the bill? If he admits that he did take it, I ask him what he did it for? It looks to us as if he had altered the bill. If it looks differently to him – if he has a different reason for his action from the one we assign him – he can tell it. I insist upon knowing why he made the bill silent upon that point when it was vocal before he put his hands upon it.
I was told, before my last paragraph, that my time was within three minutes of being out. I presume it is expired now. I therefore close. [Three tremendous cheers were given Mr. Lincoln retired.]6
MR. LINCOLN'S REJOINDER
As Mr. Lincoln stepped forward, the crowd sent up three rousing cheers.
MR. LINCOLN said:
Fellow Citizens – It follows as a matter of course that a half-hour answer to a speech of an hour-and-a-half can be but a very hurried one. I shall only be able to touch upon a few of the points suggested by Judge Douglas, and given brief attention, while I shall have to tally omit others for the want of time.
Judge Douglas has said to you that he has not been able to get from me an answer to the question whether I am in favor of negro-citizenship. So far as I know, the Judge never asked me the question before. [Applause.] He shall have no occasion to ever ask it again, for I tell him very frankly that I am not in favor of negro citizenship. [Renewed applause.] This furnishes me an occasion for saying a few words upon the subject. I mentioned in a certain speech of mine which has been printed, that the Supreme Court had decided that a negro could not possibly be made a citizen, and without saying what was my ground of complaint in regard to that, or whether I had any ground of complaint, Judge Douglas has from that thing manufactured nearly every thing that he ever says about my disposition to produce an equality between the negroes and the white people. [Laughter and applause.] If any one will read my speech, he will find I mentioned that as one of the points decided in the course of the Supreme Court opinions, but I did not state what objection I had to it. But Judge Douglas tells the people what my objection was when I did not tell them myself. Loud applause and laughter.] Now my opinion is that the different States have the power to make a negro a citizen under the Constitution of the United States if they choose. The Dred Scott decision decides that they have not that power. If the State of Illinois had the power I should be opposed to the exercise of it. [Cries of 'good,' 'good,' and applause.] That is all I have to say about it.
Judge Douglas has told me that he heard my speeches north and my speeches south – that he had heard me at Ottawa and at Freeport in the north, and recently at Jonesboro in the south, and there was a very different cast of sentiment in the speeches made at the different points. I will not charge upon Judge Douglas that he willfully misrepresents me, but I call upon every fair-minded man to take these speeches and read them, and I dare him to point out any difference between my printed speeches north and south. [Great cheering.] While I am here perhaps I ought to say a word, if I have the time, in regard to the latter portion of the Judge's speech, which was a sort of declamation in reference to my having said I entertained the belief that this government would not endure, half slave and half free. I have said so and I did not say it without what seemed to me to be good reasons. It perhaps would require more time than I have now to set forth these reasons in detail; but let me ask you a few questions. Have we ever had any peace on this slavery question? [No, no.] When are we to have peace upon if it is kept in the position it now occupies? [Never.] How are we to have peace upon it? That is an important question. To be sure if we will all stop and allow Judge Douglas and his friends to march on in their present career until they plant the institution all over the nation, here and wherever else our flay waves, and we acquiesce in it, there will be peace. But let me ask Judge Douglas how is going to get the people to do that? [Applause.] They have been wrangling over the question for at least forty years. This was the cause of the agitation resulting in the Missouri Compromise – this produced the troubles at the annexation of Texas, in the acquisition of the territory acquired in the Mexican war. Again, this was the trouble which was quieted by the Compromise of 1850, when it was settled 'forever,' as both the great political parties declared in their National Conventions. That 'forever' turned out to be just four years, [laughter] when Judge Douglas himself re-opened it. [Immense applause, cries of 'hit him again,' &c.] When is it likely to come to an end? He introduced the Nebraska bill in 1854 to put another end to the slavery agitation. He promised that it would finish it all up immediately, and he has never made a speech since until he got into a quarrel with the President about the Lecompton Constitution, which he has not declared that we are just at the end of the slavery agitation would come. [Laughter and cheers.] Now he tells us again that it is all over, and the people of Kansas have voted down the Lecompton Constitution. How is it over? That was only one of the attempts at putting an end to the slavery agitation – one of these 'final settlements.' [Renewed laughter.] Is Kansas in the Union? Has she formed a Constitution that she is likely to come in under? Is not the slavery agitation still an open question in that Territory? Has the voting down of that Constitution put an end to all the rouble? Is that more likely to settle it than every one of these previous attempts to settle the slavery agitation. [Cries of 'No,' 'No.'] Now, at this day in the history of the world we can no more foretell where the end of the world itself. The Nebraska-Kansas bill was introduced four years and a half ago, and if the agitation is ever to come to an end, we may say we are four years and a half nearer the end of the world as we can see the end of this agitation. [Applause.] The Kansas settlement did not conclude it. If Kansas should sink to-day, and leave a great vacant space in the earth's surface this vexed question would still be among us. I say then, there is no way of putting an end to the slavery agitation amongst us but to put it back upon the basis where our fathers placed it, [applause] no way but to keep it out of our new Territories [renewed applause] to restrict it forever to the old States where it now exists. [Tremendous and prolonged cheering; cries of 'That's the doctrine,' 'Good,' 'Good,' &c.] Then the public mind will rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction. That is one way of putting an end to the slavery agitation. [Applause.]
The other way is for us to surrender and let Judge Douglas and his friends have their way and plant slavery over all the States – cease speaking of it as in any way a wrong – regard slavery as one of the common matters of property, and speak of negroes as we do of our horses and cattle. But while it drives on its state of progress as it is now driving, and as it has driven for the last five years, I have ventured the opinion, and I say to-day, that we will have no end to the slavery agitation until it takes one turn or the other. [Applause.] I do not mean that when it takes a turn towards ultimate extinction it will be in a day, nor in a year, nor it two years. I do not suppose that in the most peaceful way ultimate extinction would occur in less than a hundred years at the least; but that it will occur in the best way for both races in God's own good time, I have no doubt. [Applause.] But, my friends, I have used up more of my time than I intended on this point.
Now, in regard to this matter about Trumbull and myself having made a bargain to sell out the entire Whig and Democratic parties in 1854 – Judge Douglas brings forward no evidence to sustain his charge, except the speech Matheny is said to have made in 1856, in which he told a cock-and-bull story of that sort, upon the same moral principles that Judge Douglas tells it here to-day. [Loud applause.] This is the simple truth. I do not care greatly for the story, but this is the truth of it, and I have twice told Judge Douglas to his face, that from beginning to end there is not one word of truth in it. [Thunders of applause.] I have called upon him for the proof, and he does not at all meet me as Trumbull met him upon that of which we were just talking, by producing the record. He didn't bring the record, because there was no record for him to bring. [Cheers and laughter.] When he asks if I am ready to indorse Trumbull's veracity after he has broken a bargain with me, I reply that if Trumbull had broken a bargain with me, I would not be likely to indorse his veracity [laughter and applause]; but I am ready to indorse his veracity because neither in that thing, nor in any other, in all the years that I have know Lyman Trumbull, have I known him to fail of his word or tell a falsehood, large or small. [Great cheering.] It is for that reason that I indorse Lyman Trumbull.
MR. JAMES BROWN (Douglas Post Master). – -What does Ford's history say about him?
MR. LINCOLN – Some gentleman asks me what Ford's History says about him. My own recollection is, that Ford speaks of Trumbull in very disrespectful terms in several portions of his book, and that he talks a great deal worse of Judge Douglas. [Roars of laughter and applause.] I refer you, sir, to the history for examination. [Cheers.]
Judge Douglas complains, at considerable length, about a disposition on the part of Trumbull and myself to attack him personally. I want to attend to that suggestion a moment. I don't want to be unjustly accused of dealing illiberally or unfairly with an adversary, either in court, or in a political canvass, or anywhere else. I would despise myself if I supposed myself ready to deal less liberally with an adversary than I was willing to be treated myself. Judge Douglas, in a general way, without putting it in a direct shape, revives the old charge against me, in reference to the Mexican War. He does not take the responsibility of putting it in a very definite form, but makes a general reference to it. That charge is more than ten years old. He complains of Trumbull and myself, because he says we bring charges against him one or two years old. He knows, too, that in regard to the Mexican War story, the more respectable papers of his own party throughout the State have been compelled to take it back and acknowledge that it was a lie. [Continued and vociferous applause.]
Here Mr. Lincoln turned to the crowd on the platform, and selecting Hon. Orlando B. Ficklin, led him forward and said:
I do not mean to do anything with Mr. Ficklin except to present his face and tell you that he personally knows it to be a lie! He was a member of Congress at the only time I was in Congress, and he (Ficklin) knows that whenever there was an attempt to procure a vote of mine which would indorse the origin and justice of the war. I refused to give such an indorsement, and voted against it; but I never voted against the supplies for the army, and he knows, as well as Judge Douglas, that whenever a dollar was asked by way of compensation or otherwise, for the benefit of the soldiers, I gave all the votes that Ficklin or Douglas did, and perhaps more. [Loud applause.]
MR. FICKLIN-My friends, I wish to say this in reference to the matter. Mr. Lincoln and myself. In reference to this Mexican war, my recollection is that when Ashmun's resolution (amendment) was offered by Mr. Ashmun of Massachusetts, in which he declared that the Mexican war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President – my recollection is that Mr. Lincoln voted for that resolution.
MR. LINCOLN – That is the truth. Now you all remember that was a resolution censuring the President for the manner in which the war was begun. You know they have charged that I voted against the supplies, by which I starved the soldiers who were out fighting the battles of their country. I say that Ficklin knows it is false. When that charge was brought forward by the Chicago Times, the Springfield Register (Douglas organ) reminded the Times that the charge really applied to John Henry; and I do know that John Henry is now making speeches and fiercely battling for Judge Douglas. [Loud applause.] If the Judge now says that he offers this as a sort of a set-off to what I said to-day in reference to Trumbull's charge, then I remind him that he made this charge before I said a word about Trumbull's. He brought this forward at Ottawa, the first time we met face to face; and in the opening speech that Judge Douglas made, he attacked me to be whining about people making charges against him only two years old. [Cheers.]
The Judge thinks it is altogether wrong that I should have dwelt upon this charge of Trumbull's at all. I gave the apology for doing so in my opening speech. Perhaps it didn't fix your attention. I said that when Judge Douglas was speaking at places where I spoke on the succeeding day, he used very harsh language about this charge. Two or three times afterwards I said I had confidence in Judge Trumbull's veracity and intelligence; and my own opinion was, from what I knew of the character of Judge Trumbull, that he would vindicate his position, and prove whatever he had stated to be true. This I repeated two or three times; and then I dropped it, without saying anything more on the subject for weeks – perhaps a month. I passed it by without noticing it at all till I found at Jacksonville, Judge Douglas, in the plenitude of his power, is not willing to answer Trumbull and let me alone; but he comes out there and uses this language: 'He should not hereafter occupy his time in refusing such charges made by Trumbull, but that Lincoln, having indorsed the character of Trumbull for veracity, he should hold him (Lincoln) responsible for the slanders.' What was Lincoln to do? [Laughter.] Did he not do right, when he had the fit opportunity of meeting Judge Douglas here, to tell him he was ready for the responsibility? [Enthusiastic cheering, 'Good, good. Hurrah for Lincoln!'] I ask a candid audience whether in doing thus Judge Douglas was not the assailant rather than I? ['Yes, yes, Hit him again!'] Here I meet him face to face and say I am ready to take the responsibility so far as it rests upon me.
Having done so, I ask the attention of this audience to the question whether I have succeeded in sustaining the charge [yes, 'yes'] and whether Judge Douglas has at all succeeded in rebutting it? [Loud cries of 'no, not...'] You all heard me call upon him to say which of these pieces of evidence was a forgery? Does he say that what I present here as a copy of the original Toombs bill is a forgery? ['No,' 'no'] Does he say that what I present as a copy of the bill reported by himself is a forgery? ['No,' 'no,' 'no.'] Or what is presented as a transcript from the Globe, of the quotations from Bigler's speech is a forgery? [No, no, no.] Does he say the quotations from his own speech are forgeries? ['No,' 'no,' 'no.'] Does he say this transcript from Trumbull's speech is a forgery? [Loud cries of 'no, no.' 'He didn't deny one of them.'] I would then like to know how it comes about, that when each piece of a story is true, the whole story turns out false? [Great cheers and laughter.] I take it these people have some sense; they see plainly that Judge Douglas is playing cuttlefish. [Laughter] a small species of fish that has no mode of defending itself when pursued except by throwing out a black fluid, which makes the water so dark the enemy cannot see it and thus is escapes. [Roars of laughter.] Ain't the Judge playing the cuttlefish? ['Yes, yes,' and cheers.]
Now I would ask very special attention to the consideration of Judge Douglas' speech at Jacksonville; and when you shall read his speech of to-day, I ask you to watch closely and see which of these pieces of testimony, every one of which he says is a forgery, he has shown to be such. Not one of them has he shown to be a forgery. Then I ask the original question, if each of the pieces of testimony is true, how is it possible that the whole is a falsehood? [Loud and continued cheers.]
In regard to Trumbull's charge that he (Douglas) inserted a provision into the bill to prevent the Constitution being submitted to the people, what was his answer? He comes here and reads from the Congressional Globe to show that on his motion that provision was truck out of the bill. Why, Trumbull has not said it was not stricken out, but Trumbull says he (Douglas) put it in, and it is no answer to the charge to say he afterwards too it out. Both are perhaps true. It was in regard to that thing precisely that I told him he had dropped the cub. [Roars of laughter.] Trumbull shows you that by his introducing the bill it was his cub. [Laughter.] It is no answer to that assertion to call Trumbull a liar merely because he did not specially say Douglas struck it out. Suppose that were the case, does it answer Trumbull? [No, no.] I assert that you (pointing to an individual,) are here to-day, and you undertake to prove me a liar by putting it on your head. [Roars of laughter.] That is the whole force of Douglas' argument.
Now, I want to come back to my original question. Trumbull says that Judge Douglas had a bill with a provision in it for submitting a Constitution to be made to a vote of the people of Kansas. Does Judge Douglas deny that fact? [Cries of 'no, no.'] Does he deny that the provision which Trumbull reads was put in that bill? ['No, no.'] Then Trumbull says he struck it out. Does he dare to deny that? ['No, no, no.'] He does not, and I have the right to repeat the question - why, Judge Douglas took it out? [Immense applause.] Bigler has said there was a combination of certain Senators, among whom he did not include Judge Douglas, by which it was agreed that the Kansas bill should have a clause in it not to have the Constitution formed under it submitted to a vote of the people. He did not say that Douglas was among them, but we prove by another source that about the same time Douglas comes into the Senate with that provision stricken out of the bill. Although Bigler cannot say they were all working in concert, yet it looks very much as if the thing was agreed upon and done with a mutual understanding after the conference; and while we do not know that it was absolutely so, yet it looks so probable that we have a right to call upon the man who knows the true reason why it was done, to tell what the true reason was. [Great cheers.] When he will not tell what the true reason was, he stands in the attitude of an accused thief who has stolen goods in his possession, and when called to account, refuses to tell where he got them. [Immense applause.] Not only is this the evidence, but when he comes in with the bill having the provision stricken out, he tells us in a speech, not then but since, that these alterations and modifications in the bill had been made by HIM, in consultation with Toombs, the originator of the bill. He tells us the same to-day. says there were certain modifications made in the bill in committee that he did not vote for. I ask you to remember while certain amendments were made which he disapproved of, but which a majority of the Committee voted in, he has himself told us that in this particular the alterations and modifications were made by him upon consultation with Toombs. [Enthusiastic cheering.] We have his own words that these alterations were made by him and not by the committee. [That's so,' 'good, good.'] Now, I ask what is the reason Judge Douglas is chary about coming to the exact question? What is the reason he will not tell you anything about HOW it was made, or that he remembers it being made at all? Why does he stand playing upon the meaning of words, and quibbling around the edges of the evidence? If he can explain all this, but leaves it unexplained, I have a right to infer that Judge Douglas understood it was the purpose of his party, in engineering that bill through, to make a Constitution and have Kansas come into the Union with that Constitution, without its being submitted to a vote of the people. ['That's it.] If he will explain his action on this question, by giving a better reason for the facts that happened, than he has done, it will be satisfactory. But until he does that – until he gives a better or more plausible reason than he has offered against the evidence in the case - I suggest to him it will not avail him at all that he swells himself up, takes on dignity, and calls people liars. [Great applause and laughter.] Why, sir, there is not a word in Trumbull's speech that depends on Trumbull's veracity at all. He has only arrayed the evidence and told you what follows as matter of reasoning. There is not a statement in the whole speech that depends on Trumbull's world. If you have ever studied geometry, you remember that by a course of reasoning Euclid proves that all the angles in a triangle are equal to two right angles. Euclid has shown you how to work it out. Now, if you undertake to disprove that proposition, and to show that it is erroneous, would you prove it to be false by calling Euclid a liar? [Roars of laughter and enthusiastic cheers.] They tell me that my time is out, and therefore I close.