BECK index


Debating Douglas

by Sanderson Beck



Springfield, Illinois
June 26, 1857

A small audience has gathered. Lincoln comes in with a load of books and speaks to them.

I am here tonight by your invitation
and to answer the speech
made by Judge Douglas.
In the Kansas election the returns indicate that
only about one sixth of the registered voters
have really voted,
and perhaps one half of the rightful voters
have been registered.
The Dred Scott decision
declares two propositions—
first, that a Negro cannot sue in the US Courts;
and second, that Congress cannot prohibit
slavery in the territories.
But we think this decision is erroneous.
We know that the Court has often over-ruled
its own decisions,
and we shall do what we can
to have it over-rule this.
We offer no resistance to it.
Why this Supreme Court once decided
a national bank to be constitutional;
but President Jackson disregarded the decision
and vetoed a bill for a re-charter,
partly on constitutional ground,
declaring that each public functionary
must support the Constitution
as he understands it.

Chief Justice Taney, in delivering
the opinion of the majority of the Court,
insists that Negroes were no part
of the people who made,
or for whom was made,
the Declaration of Independence
or the Constitution of the United States.
On the contrary, Judge Curtis
in his dissenting opinion shows that
in five of the then thirteen states
free Negroes were voters
and had the same part in making
the Constitution that the white people had.
In two of the five states—
New Jersey and North Carolina—
that then gave the free Negro the right of voting,
the right has since been taken away;
and in a third—New York—
it has been greatly abridged,
while it has not been extended
to a single additional state.
In those days masters could
emancipate their slaves;
but since then, such legal restraints
have been made upon emancipation
as to amount almost to prohibition.
In those days the spread
of the black man’s bondage
to new countries was prohibited;
but now Congress decides that
it will not continue the prohibition,
and the Supreme Court decides that
it could not if it would.
In those days our Declaration of Independence
was held sacred by all
and was thought to include all;
but now to aid in making the bondage
of the Negro universal and eternal,
it is assailed and sneered at and construed
and hawked at and torn till,
if its framers could rise from their graves,
they could not at all recognize it.
All the powers of the earth
seem rapidly combining against the Negro.
Mammon is after him; ambition follows,
and the theology of the day
is fast joining the cry.
They have him in the prison house;
they have searched his person
and left no prying instrument with him.
One after another they have closed
the heavy iron doors upon him.

There is a natural disgust in the minds
of nearly all white people to the idea
of an indiscriminate amalgamation
of the white and black races,
and Judge Douglas evidently is basing
his chief hope upon the chance
of being able to appropriate the benefit
of this disgust to himself.
Now I protest against the counterfeit logic
which concludes that, because
I do not want a black woman for a slave
I must necessarily want her for a wife.
I need not have her for either;
I can just leave her alone.
In some respects she certainly is not my equal;
but in her natural right to eat the bread
she earns with her own hands
without asking leave of anyone else,
she is my equal and the equal of all others.

Chief Justice Taney admits that
the language of the Declaration is broad enough
to include the whole human family;
but he and Judge Douglas argue that
the authors did not intend to include Negroes
by the fact that they did not at once actually
place them on an equality with the whites.
I think the authors of that notable instrument
intended to include all men,
but they did not intend
to declare all men equal in all respects.
They did not mean to say
all were equal in color, size, intellect,
moral development, or social capacity.
They did consider all men created equal
in “certain inalienable rights,
among which are life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness.”
They meant simply to declare the right
so that the enforcement of it might follow
as fast as circumstances should permit.
They meant to set up
a standard maxim for free society,
which should be familiar to all
and revered by all, constantly looked to,
constantly labored for,
and even though never perfectly attained,
constantly approximated,
and thereby constantly spreading
and deepening its influence
and augmenting the happiness
and value of life to all people
of all colors everywhere.

Judge Douglas is especially horrified
at the thought of the mixing blood
by the white and black races.
There are white men enough
to marry all the white women,
and black men enough
to marry all the black women;
and so let them be married.
When he shall show that his policy is better
adapted to prevent amalgamation than ours,
we shall drop ours and adopt his.
In 1850 there were in the United States
405,751 mulattoes.
Very few of these are the offspring
of whites and free blacks;
nearly all have sprung from
black slaves and white masters.
Among the free states
those which make the colored man
the nearest to equal the white
have proportionally the fewest mulattoes.
These statistics show that slavery
is the greatest source of amalgamation.

Separation, if ever effected at all,
must be effected by colonization,
and no political party is now doing
anything directly for colonization.
When we are brought to believe that
it is morally right and favorable to our interest
to transfer the African to his native clime,
we shall find a way to do it.
The Republicans inculcate
that the Negro is a man,
that his bondage is cruelly wrong,
and that the field of his oppression
ought not to be enlarged.
The Democrats deny his manhood,
deny the wrong of his bondage,
crush all sympathy for him,
and excite hatred and disgust against him.
They call the spreading of his bondage
“a sacred right of self-government.”
It will be hard to find many men
who will send a slave to Liberia
and pay his passage
while they can send him to a new country,
Kansas for instance,
and sell him for fifteen hundred dollars.




Lincoln is handing Herndon an envelope of money.

Billy, here is your half of the fee
from the Central Illinois Railroad.
I had to sue them for it, but I got it.

My God, Lincoln, this is $2,400!

I was only going to charge them $3,000;
but when they refused to pay that,
my friends told me that
I should sue them for at least $5,000.
I had already received a $200 retainer.

I believe this is our largest fee yet.

Considering I saved the railroad company
about a half million dollars in taxes
that they will not have to pay,
I think our fee is reasonable.

I certainly agree.

Billy, it seems to me it will be in bad taste
on your part to keep saying the severe things
I have heard from you
about railroads and other corporations.
The truth is, instead of criticizing them,
you and I ought to thank God
for letting this one fall into our hands.




Several lawyers are representing CAPTAIN JACOB HURD in his suit against the Central Illinois Railroad, which is represented by NORMAN JUDD, JOSEPH KNOX, and Lincoln. Judd is making the opening statement for the defense.

Captain Jacob Hurd is suing
the Central Illinois Railroad
because his steamboat hit one of the piers
of the railroad bridge that crosses
the Mississippi River at Rock Island.
This is the first bridge
to span the mighty Mississippi,
and the people of St. Louis
do not want any bridge
affecting their river transportation systems.
Every bushel of wheat that goes
from the west to the east
will be affected by this case,
and the people of St. Louis are nervous.


Lincoln is addressing the jury in his closing argument.

My purpose is not to assail anybody,
and I have no prejudice
against steamboats or St. Louis.
The last thing I want is for the channels
of the Mississippi to be blocked up.
Travel from east to west is growing larger.
The population of Illinois has grown
to a million and a half,
and many people are settling in Iowa.
This travel has rights too.
In the past twelve months
12,586 freight cars and 74,179 passengers
have passed over this bridge.
Navigation was closed
for nearly four months in the last year
while the bridge remained useful.
When the bridge was burned in the accident,
the steamboat men celebrated.
Since then the number of accidents
has been decreasing.
As the boatmen cool,
we can expect no accidents at all.
The piers are on an angle
because of the curve of the river
so that the current runs straight.
Tests show that the current under the bridge
runs at about five miles an hour.
The channel is 22 feet deep and 116 feet wide,
and the Afton is 35 feet wide
and draws five feet of water.
Several witnesses have testified
that there are no cross currents
despite what the plaintiffs have alleged.
The Afton struck the short pier first
and then the long pier.
Witnesses have told us that
the starboard wheel was not working,
and the captain knew it was not working.
The Afton came into the draw
after passing the Carson
which kept to its true course.
By going out of its proper course
the Afton got across the current.
Was it not her own fault
that she entered the draw wrong?
The idea of a tunnel is impractical,
and there is no such tunnel in the world.
A suspension bridge would be too high.
The cars of a railroad cannot
without immense expense
rise high enough to cross a suspension bridge
or go low enough to get down into a tunnel.
The plaintiffs have not established that
the draw bridge is a material obstruction
or that they managed their boat
with reasonable care and skill.


Lincoln is playing on the floor with his young sons WILLIE and TAD while MARY is reading. They hear a knock on the door, and Lincoln gets up to answer it.

Father, do not answer the door
without your shoes.
Let the servant get it.

Ignoring her, Lincoln goes to the front door and opens it to find HANNAH ARMSTRONG.

Hannah Armstrong,
I have not seen you for many years.
Please come in.

They walk into the living room.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
Mary, this is the wife
of my good friend, Jack Armstrong.

Jack recently passed on.

I am very sorry to hear that.
These are our youngest sons, Willie and Tad.
Hannah and Jack welcomed me into their home
when I was just a young buck in New Salem.
Is there anything I can do for you?

Yes, I have been advised that
you are the best trial lawyer,
and I need a good one.

What is the trouble?

You remember my son Duff.
He and his friend James Norris
got in a fight with a drunken farmer
named Metzker, who died three days later.
Norris hit him in the head with a piece of wood,
and he was convicted of manslaughter
and was sentenced to eight years.
They have also accused Duff of murder.
They said he hit Metzker
in the eye with a sling-shot,
and his trial has been transferred
to Beardstown in Cass County.
Will you defend him?

Of course I will.

What will you charge? I am poor.

Why, Hannah,
I shan’t charge you a cent—never.
Anything I can do for you I will do for you
willingly and freely without charge.



May 7, 1858

Lincoln is questioning the witness CHARLES ALLEN.

Mr. Allen, you have testified that
you saw Norris hit Metzker
in the back of the head
with something that looked like a neck-yoke.
Is that correct?

Yes, sir.

And you say that you saw
Duff Armstrong strike Metzker in the right eye
with what appeared to be a sling-shot?


What time was it when this happened?

I would say about ten or eleven at night.

And how far away from them were you?

About fifteen or twenty yards.

Was it dark? How could you see?

I remember the moon was shining.

Do you remember where the moon was?

Yes, it was high in the sky.

I have given the sheriff an 1857 Almanac,
and I ask that it be shown to the judge,
the prosecutors, and the jury.

The SHERIFF takes the Almanac to JUDGE HARRIOTT, who looks at it and then passes it on.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
According to this Almanac,
the moon that night was in its last quarter
and set about midnight,
which means that it would have been
very low in the sky between ten and eleven.


Lincoln is questioning the witness WILLIAM WATKINS and is handing him the slingshot.

Mr. Watkins,
do you recognize this slingshot?

Yes, sir, it is mine.

How do you know this slingshot is yours?

Because I made it myself.

Did you lose this slingshot?

No, I threw it away the day after the fight.

The day after the fight.
Where did you throw it away?

At the particular place where it was found.


Lincoln is questioning the witness DR. CHARLES PARKER who is pointing to a place on the back of a skull.

The blow on the back of the head here
could have been caused by
Metzker falling from his horse.

What about the blow by his right eye?
Was that the cause of death?

Yes, I believe it was.

In your opinion what caused
that blow by the eye?

It could have been cause by the slingshot,
but it also could have been caused
by the wooden instrument used by Norris.


Lincoln is making his closing arguments to the jury. He has removed his coat and vest and the stock from his neck, and one of his suspenders has fallen to his side. As usual, his hair is not combed because he often runs his hand through it. At the beginning he points to Hannah Armstrong.

Gentlemen, I appear here without any reward
for the benefit of that lady sitting there
who washed my dirty shirts
when I had no money to pay her.
So if Mr. Allen was mistaken
about the position of the moon,
he may also have been mistaken
about what else he claims he saw.
If the moon was small and setting behind trees,
it would have been quite dark
and difficult to see what happened
from many yards away in a fast-moving fight.
I have taken apart the slingshot to prove
that it was built by Mr. Watkins.
Certainly a reasonable doubt has been raised
by the testimony of Dr. Parker
that the death of Metzker
could have been caused by Norris,
not by Duff Armstrong.
Metzker was so drunk that he fell off his horse
once or twice on his way home
and hit his head on the ground.
I have brought several character witnesses
on behalf of Duff Armstrong,
and I myself can tell you that
I have known his mother and father
since he was a baby in a cradle
that I used to rock with my own hands.
When I was a poor boy
who had just come to New Salem,
they helped me in many ways.
If Duff is anything like
his father Jack Armstrong,
he will be a good man.
Now his mother is a widow
and needs her son more than ever.


Judge Harriott is instructing the jury.

Mr. Lincoln on behalf of the defense
has submitted jury instructions.
The court has accepted them,
and they are as follows:
The Court instructs the jury as follows:
That if they have any reasonable doubt
as to whether Metzker came to his death
by the blow on the eye
or by the blow on the back of the head,
they are to find the defendant not guilty
unless they also believe from the evidence,
beyond reasonable doubt,
that Armstrong and Norris acted
by concert against Metzker
and that Norris struck the blow
on the back of the head.
That if they believe from the evidence
that Norris killed Metzker,
they are to acquit Armstrong,
unless they also believe
beyond a reasonable doubt
that Armstrong acted in concert with Norris
in the killing or purpose
to kill Metzker or hurt Metzker.


The JURY CHAIRMAN is reading the verdict.

We find the defendant Duff Armstrong
not guilty of murder.

I thank the jury for their service,
and this court is adjourned.

Lincoln shakes hands with Duff Armstrong and leads him to his mother.

Duff, go home and be a good boy now
and don’t get into any more scrapes.
Take care of your mother
and try to make yourself
as good a man as your father was.

Hannah hugs Duff and looks at Lincoln with grateful and admiring eyes.


Lincoln and Herndon are talking.

In Washington I saw Seward and Wilson.
Judge Douglas was ill,
but he received me in his home.
I told him that you are not in his way,
and he asked me to give you his regards.
He said to tell you that
he has crossed the river and burned his boat.

I guess that means he is going to continue
opposing President Buchanan
because of their disagreement on letting
the folks in Kansas vote on their constitution.

All the Douglas Democrats are losing
their federal appointments,
and they are being replaced by men
who are loyal to Buchanan.

Did you see Greeley in New York?

Yes, we had a long talk.
He is not hostile to you
even though he has leaned toward Douglas
in his fight against the President.

I am concerned that Douglas
may join the Republicans.

Seward told me there is no danger of that.
In Massachusetts you were favorably
mentioned by Philips, Sumner,
Garrison, Beecher, and Parker.

I read Theodore Parker’s lecture on
“The Effect of Slavery on the American People”
and really like it, especially where he wrote,
“Democracy is direct self-government,
over all the people, for all the people,
by all the people.”

I fear that Long John Wentworth in Chicago
will get Republican politicians to nominate him
to run for the Senate against Douglas.
For the first time in Illinois
a state convention of Democrats
has nominated Douglas for the US Senate.

The Republicans are holding a convention
here in Springfield in June.
Maybe they would nominate me then.

I think they would.
You are much more popular
among the people than Wentworth.

Then that will be our strategy.
I am working on my speech.



June 16

More than a thousand delegates are attending the Republican convention. The Chicago delegation has raised a banner inscribed “COOK COUNTY IS FOR ABRAHAM LINCOLN.” GUSTAVE KOERNER is presiding.

The delegate from Peoria is recognized.

Mr. President, we move that
the motto on that banner be changed to

This is greeted with enthusiastic cheers and hurrahs.

If there is no objection, it is so ordered.

The cheering becomes even louder as they chant “Lincoln! Lincoln!” The word “ILLINOIS” has already been prepared and is taped over the words “COOK COUNTY.”

KOERNER (Cont’d.)
Mr. Charles Wilson is recognized.

Mr. President, be it resolved that
Abraham Lincoln is the first and only choice
of the Republicans of Illinois
for the United States Senate,
as the successor of Stephen A. Douglas.

Seconds and hurrahs are heard among the cheering.

All in favor of nominating Abraham Lincoln
for the United States Senate will say aye.

The vast majority shout “Aye.”

KOERNER (Cont’d.)
Those opposed will say nay.

A few voices say “Nay.”

KOERNER (Cont’d.)
The ayes have it, and by acclamation
Abraham Lincoln is the Republican nominee
for the United States Senate.

The crowd goes wild and chants “Lincoln! Lincoln!” as they parade around and demonstrate their approval.



That evening

Lincoln is speaking from the platform and has a manuscript before him, but he has nearly memorized his speech and only occasionally looks down.

Mr. President and gentlemen of the convention:
If we could first know where we are,
and whither we are tending,
we could then better judge
what to do and how to do it.
We are now into the fifth year
since a policy was initiated
with the avowed object and confident promise
of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy
that agitation has not only not ceased,
but it has constantly augmented.
In my opinion it will not cease until
a crisis shall have been reached and passed.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure
permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved;
I do not expect the house to fall;
but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.
Either the opponents of slavery
will arrest the further spread of it and place it
where the public mind shall rest in the belief
that it is in course of ultimate extinction;
or its advocates will push it forward
till it shall become lawful in all the states,
old as well as new, North as well as South.
Have we no tendency to the latter condition?
Let anyone who doubts carefully contemplate
that now almost completed legal combination,
a machinery, so to speak, compounded of
the Nebraska doctrine and the Dred Scott decision.

Let us trace the evidences of this design.
The new year of 1854 found slavery
excluded from more than half the states
by state constitutions
and from most of the national territory
by Congressional prohibition.
Four days later commenced the struggle,
which ended in repealing
that Congressional prohibition.
This opened all the national territory to slavery
and was the first point gained.
This necessity was provided for in the
notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,”
otherwise called
the “sacred right of self-government.”
The latter phrase was so perverted
as to amount to just this:
that if any one man choose to enslave another,
no third man shall be allowed to object.
That argument was incorporated
into the Nebraska bill.
Opposition members said,
“Let us amend the bill
so as to expressly declare that
the people of the territory may exclude slavery,
but the friends of the measure
voted down the amendment.

While the Nebraska bill
was passing through Congress,
a law case involving a Negro’s freedom
in a free state and then a territory
was passing through the courts.
Before the next Presidential election
the Dred Scott case was argued
in the Supreme Court of the United States,
but the decision was deferred
until after the election.
The election of Mr. Buchanan
gained the second point
although the endorsement fell short
of clear popular majority
by nearly four hundred thousand votes.
The Supreme Court did not announce its decision
until after the Presidential inauguration,
and the incoming President
in his inaugural address exhorted the people
to abide by the forthcoming decision
whatever it might be.
Then in a few days came the decision.
The author of the Nebraska bill makes a speech
endorsing the Dred Scott decision,
and the new President also endorses it.

A squabble springs up between the President
and the author of the Nebraska bill
on whether the Lecompton Constitution
was or was not made by the people of Kansas.
The latter declares that he wants
a fair vote for the people
and that he cares not
whether slavery be voted down or voted up.
That principle is the only shred left
of his original Nebraska doctrine.
Under the Dred Scott decision
“squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence.
His late struggle for the right of the people
to make their own constitution
was shared by the Republicans.

The working points of the machinery are:
First, that no Negro slave
can ever be a citizen of any state
under the Constitution of the United States.
Second, subject to the Constitution
neither Congress nor a territorial legislature
can exclude slavery
from any United States territory.
Individual men may fill up
the territories with slaves
without danger of losing them as property
to enhance the chances of permanency
to the institution through all the future.
Third, whether holding a Negro in actual slavery
in a free state makes him free will be decided,
not in United States courts,
but by the courts of any slave state
the Negro may be forced into by the master.
What Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do
with Dred Scott in the free state of Illinois,
every other master may lawfully do
with any other one or one thousand slaves
in Illinois or in any other free state.
Thus Stephen Douglas, Franklin Pierce,
Roger Taney, and James Buchanan
worked together to forge this machinery.

We may see ere long
another Supreme Court decision declaring
that the Constitution of the United States
does not permit a state
to exclude slavery from its limits,
especially if the doctrine of
“care not whether slavery be voted down or up”
shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently
to give promise that such a decision
can be maintained when made.
Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks
of being alike lawful in all the states.
Such a decision is probably coming
and will soon be upon us
unless the power of the present political dynasty
shall be met and overthrown.
We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that
the people of Missouri are on the verge
of making their state free;
and we shall awake to the reality instead
that the Supreme Court
has made Illinois a slave state.
To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty
is the work now before all those
who would prevent that consummation.
That is what we have to do.

But how can we best do it?
There are those who denounce us openly
to their own friends and yet whisper to us softly
that Senator Douglas is the aptest instrument
there is to effect that object.
They do not tell us, nor has he told us,
that he wishes any such object to be effected.
They wish us to infer all from the facts
that he now has a little quarrel
with the present head of the dynasty
and that he has voted with us on a single point.
They remind us that he is a very great man,
and the largest of us are very small ones.
Let this be granted,
but “a living dog is better than a dead lion.”
Judge Douglas, if not a dead lion for this work,
is at least a caged and toothless one.
How can he oppose the advances of slavery?
He don’t care anything about it.
His avowed mission is impressing
the “public heart” to care nothing about it.
A leading Douglas Democratic newspaper
thinks Douglas’ superior talent will be needed
to resist the revival of the African slave trade.
Does Douglas believe an effort
to revive that trade is approaching?
If it is, how can he resist it?
For years he has labored to prove it
a sacred right of white men
to take Negro slaves into the new territories.
Can he possibly show that it is less a sacred right
to buy them where they can be bought cheapest?
And unquestionably they can be bought cheaper
in Africa than in Virginia.
He has done all in his power to reduce
the whole question of slavery
to one of a mere right of property;
and as such how can he
oppose the foreign slave trade?
How can he refuse that trade in that “property”
shall be “perfectly free” unless he does it
as a protection to the home production?
And as the home producers will
probably not ask for the protection,
he will be wholly without a ground of opposition.
Clearly Senator Douglas is not now with us.
He does not pretend to be,
and he does not promise ever to be.

Our cause, then, must be entrusted to
and conducted by its own undoubted friends—
those whose hands are free,
whose hearts are in the work
and who do care for the result.
Two years ago the Republicans of the nation
mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong.
We did this under the single impulse
of resistance to a common danger
with every external circumstance against us.
Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements
we gathered from the four winds and formed
and fought the battle through
under the constant hot fire of a
disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.
Did we brave all then to falter now?—
now when that same enemy is
wavering, dissevered and belligerent?
The result is not doubtful.
We shall not fail—
if we stand firm, we shall not fail.
Wise counsels may accelerate it,
or mistakes may delay it,
but sooner or later the victory is sure to come.

Lincoln’s speech is given a standing ovation.



July 9

STEPHEN DOUGLAS is speaking to a crowd of about 12,000 in the street below while Lincoln sits behind Douglas on the balcony and takes notes.

I cannot express my profound gratitude
for this magnificent welcome.
It is an expression of your devotion
to that great principle of self-government.
When I found an effort being made
in the Congress to force a constitution
upon the people of Kansas against their will,
and to force that state into the Union
with a constitution which her people
had rejected by more than 10,000,
I felt bound as a man of honor
and a representative of Illinois
to resist the consummation of that fraud.
We forced them to refer that constitution
back to the people of Kansas.
The great principle of popular sovereignty
has been vindicated.

I regard Mr. Lincoln as a kind
and intelligent gentleman,
a good citizen and an honorable opponent;
whatever issue I may have with him
will be of principle
and not involving personalities.
He asserts that there must be uniformity
in local laws and domestic institutions
of all the states of the Union,
and he therefore invites all the free States
to band together and make war upon
slavery in all the slaveholding states,
and to persevere in that war
until it shall be exterminated.
The framers of the Constitution understood
that each locality required separate laws,
domestic institutions, and police regulations.
Uniformity in local affairs would destroy
states’ rights and personal freedom.
Uniformity is the parent of despotism.
This could only be accomplished
by abolishing the state legislatures,
merging the states in one consolidated empire.
Then you will have a Maine liquor law
in every state or none.
If we expect to maintain our liberties,
we must preserve the rights
and sovereignty of the states.

I take issue with Mr. Lincoln’s crusade
against the Supreme Court of the United States.
What security have you
for your property and rights
if the courts are not upheld?
The highest tribunal’s decision must be final.
Mr. Lincoln says it is wrong
because it deprives the Negro
of the rights of citizenship.
In my opinion this government
was made by the white man
for the benefit of the white man
to be administered by white men.
A Negro, an Indian, or any other man
of inferior race to a white man,
should be permitted to enjoy only the rights
that each state shall decide.
I am in favor of preserving
the purity of the blood
and the purity of the government
from any mixture with inferior races.
In all the Spanish-American States
its result has been degeneration,
demoralization, and degradation
below the capacity for self-government.
I would extend to the Negro,
the Indian, and all dependent races
every right, privilege, and immunity consistent
with the safety and welfare of the white races;
but equality they never should have,
neither political nor social
nor in any other respect whatever.
In conclusion I thank you for the welcome
you have extended to me.

Douglas sits down as the cheering gradually changes to calls for “Lincoln.” Lincoln stands up and speaks to the crowd.

It is too late now for me to reply;
I shall talk to you tomorrow evening.



July 10

Lincoln is addressing a crowd of about 9,000 people who are much more enthusiastic than the previous gathering.

My fellow citizens,
I am here to reply to the speech
made last night by Senator Douglas.
What is popular sovereignty?
And what is squatter sovereignty?
If slaves are taken into a territory,
they are obliged to tolerate it
because experience shows that people
will not deprive owners of their Negro slaves.
Republicans do not oppose self-government,
which Judge Douglas thinks he has invented.
The old Declaration of Independence stated,
“That to secure these rights
governments are instituted among men
deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed.”
I agree that opposing
the Lecompton Constitution was right.
All the Republicans opposed it,
but in the Senate the Democrats
furnished only three votes.
As to slavery in this country
I made a prediction and did not say that
I desired that slavery should be put
in course of ultimate extinction,
but I say so now.
For 82 years this nation has endured
half slave and half free.
Until the Nebraska bill the public believed that
slavery was in course of ultimate extinction.
I believe there is no right
for the people in the free states
to interfere with slavery in the slave states.
Judge Douglas says I am in favor of
setting the sections at war with one another.
I never meant any such thing.
I believe each individual is naturally entitled
to do as he pleases with himself
and the fruit of his labor
so far as it in no way interferes
with any other man’s rights—
that each community as a state has rights,
and that the general government
has no right to interfere with anything
other than what concerns the whole.
I do not believe Illinois has a right to interfere
with the cranberry laws of Indiana
or the Liquor Laws of Maine.
Slavery is a larger issue
because it is keeping one-sixth
of the population of the whole nation
in a state of oppression and tyranny
unequalled in the world.
The American people look upon it
as a vast moral evil,
and they prove it by the writings of those
who gave us the blessings of liberty.
I am not trying to free
Dred Scott from his master,
but I refuse to obey that decision
as a political rule.
In Congress I would vote
to prohibit slavery in new territory.

People applaud, and voices shout out affirmative support such as “Good for you,” “We hope to see it,” and “That’s right.”

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
We abide by the Dred Scott decision,
but we will try to reverse it in future cases.
Any judicial decision has
always needed confirmation
before the lawyers regarded it as settled law.
Despite the ruling of the Supreme Court
President Jackson refused
to re-charter the National Bank,
saying that he had sworn to uphold
the Constitution as he understood it.
The Republican party is made up of those
who oppose slavery peaceably
and hope for its ultimate extinction.
Judge Douglas believes that this government
was made for white men and warns us that
inferior races may bring the superior down.
Why if we do not let them
get together in the territories,
they won’t mix there.
Half our people are descendants of those
who have come from Europe—
German, Irish, French, and Scandinavian.
When they hear the words,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident
that all men are created equal,”
then they feel that moral sentiment
and principle that they have a right to claim.
What are these arguments about inferior races?
They are the arguments that kings have made
for enslaving people in all ages of the world.
If we are to start making exceptions
to the declaration that all men are equal,
where will it stop?
When our Savior said,
“As your Father in heaven is perfect,
be ye also perfect,”
he set that up as a standard,
and whoever does most
towards reaching that standard,
attains the highest degree of moral perfection.
So I say in relation to the principle
that all men are created equal,
let it be as nearly reached as we can.
If we do not do so,
we are turning in the contrary direction
that our friend Judge Douglas proposes,
tending to make this one universal slave nation.
I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty
will burn in your bosoms
until there shall no longer be a doubt
that all men are created free and equal.

Lincoln retires into the hotel during the applause and cheers.



July 17

Douglas is addressing a large audience.

The Crittendon-Montgomery bill referred
the Lecompton Constitution back
to the people of Kansas to be decided
for or against it in a fair election,
carrying out the principle of the Nebraska bill.
Now the people of every territory shall come
into the Union with slavery or without it
just as they please
without any interference by the Congress.
Mr. Lincoln deems me a conspirator
with the Supreme Court
and two Presidents of the United States.
He wants to go to the Senate to carry out
his policy of making all the states free
so that the house shall no longer
be divided against itself.
Yet in Chicago he admitted that there is no right
to interfere with slavery in the slave states.
He intends to make all the states free
by means of a political party
with adherents only in the free states
who will elected a President to administer
the government on sectional grounds.
He invites a war of the North against the South.
He says that the states must be all free
or must all be slave.
On this point I take issue with him directly.
He will wage warfare upon the Supreme Court
because of the Dred Scott decision.
When we refuse to abide by judicial decisions,
what protection is left for life and property?
To whom shall you appeal?
To mob law, to partisan caucuses,
to town meetings, to revolution?
Mr. Lincoln says the Dred Scott decision
destroys the doctrine of popular sovereignty
because the Court has decided that
Congress has no power
to prohibit slavery in the territories,
and he infers that the territorial legislatures
could not prohibit slavery there.
If the people of a territory want slavery,
they will have it;
and if they do not want it,
they will drive it out.
Slavery cannot exist without supporting laws
furnishing police regulations.
In Kansas even with such laws
the majority against slavery have kept it out.
Mr. Lincoln objects that the Dred Scott decision
deprives the Negro of the right of citizenship.
I am not in favor of Negro citizenship.
Each state decides for itself
what rights a Negro is to have.
I am not only opposed to Negro equality,
but I am opposed to Indian equality
or putting the Chinese or any inferior race
on an equality with us.
I hold the European race to be our equals.
Mr. Lincoln will strike out
of the Constitution of Illinois that clause
which prohibits free Negroes.
If you think he will do more to advance
the interests and character of Illinois,
it is your duty to elect him.
I leave the question in your hands
and I thank you for this welcome.



That evening

A few hours later Lincoln is addressing the audience.

Fellow citizens:
An important election is approaching,
and I suppose the Republican party
will elect their state ticket;
but in the legislature population changes
that are not yet accounted for
put us at a disadvantage.
I have expressed my expectation
that this nation will not remain
half slave and half free.
In my opinion the public mind believed
that slavery was on its way toward extinction
until the Nebraska bill was introduced.
I have always believed that
slavery would become extinct;
but the repeal of the Missouri Compromise
made this a major issue.
Judge Douglas has raised the issue
of judicial authority.
In 1820 Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter that
“to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiter
of all constitutional questions”
is “a very dangerous doctrine.”
To make a single tribunal the ultimate power
would make them despots.
The Constitution wisely made
the three branches of government co-equal.
Henry Clay pointed out that the mother country
refused to prohibit slavery in the colonies
and would not give the people the authority
to prohibit it themselves.
This was one of the just causes of complaint
against Great Britain by the colonies.
Now the Nebraska politicians
will not prohibit slavery in the territories
nor allow the people to do so.
I charge Judge Douglas with having been
a party to that conspiracy and deception
for the sole purpose of nationalizing slavery.


Lincoln knocks on the door. FRANCIS BRYANT opens the door.

Oh, Mr. Lincoln, please come in.


Bryant leads Lincoln into the parlor.

I would like to speak to Judge Douglas.

The hour is late, and he has retired.

It is important.
Please tell him that I am here.

Bryant nods and goes upstairs.


Douglas comes down the stairs in his night-shirt.

Did you get my letter about the debates?

I did. Let us sit and talk.

They both sit down.

I would have challenged you sooner,
but out of respect for your position
I wanted to wait for you to make a proposal.

You certainly have been following me
wherever I go and speaking after me.
We already debated in Chicago and Springfield.
I suggest that we debate in each
of the seven remaining Congressional districts
in the towns of Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro,
Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy, and Alton.

I agree with that plan.
What debate format do you propose?

In the first debate I will speak first for one hour
and then you will speak for an hour and a half,
followed by my half-hour reply.
After that we shall alternate who goes first.

That gives you the advantage of going
first and last in the first and last debates,
but I accept the conditions.

Good, then we have an agreement.

They shake hands.



August 17

Lincoln is speaking to a small but enthusiastic audience.

These communities by their representatives
in old Independence Hall
said to the whole world of men:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident:
that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable rights;
that among these are life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This was their majestic interpretation
of the economy of the universe.
This was their lofty and wise
and noble understanding of the justice
of the Creator to his creatures,
to the great family of man.
In their enlightened belief nothing stamped
with the divine image and likeness
was sent into the world to be trodden on
and degraded and imbruted by his fellows.
They grasped not only the whole race
of man then living,
but they reached forward
and seized upon the farthest posterity.
They erected a beacon to guide
their children and their children’s children,
and the countless myriads
who should inhabit the earth in other ages.
Wise statesmen as they were, they knew
the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants,
and so they established
these great self-evident truths,
that when in the distant future some man,
some faction, some interest,
should set up the doctrine that
none but rich men or none but white men
were entitled to life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness,
their prosperity might look up again
to the Declaration of Independence
and take courage to renew the battle
which their fathers began—
so that truth and justice and mercy
and all the humane and Christian virtues
might not be extinguished from the land;
so that no man would hereafter dare to limit
and circumscribe the great principles
on which the temple of liberty was being built.
Now, my countrymen,
if you have been taught doctrines
conflicting with these great landmarks,
let me entreat you to return to the fountain
whose waters spring close
by the blood of the Revolution.
Think nothing of me—
take no thought for the political fate
of any man whomsoever—
but come back to the truths
that are in the Declaration of Independence.
You may do anything with me you choose,
if you will but heed these sacred principles.
You may not only defeat me for the Senate,
but you may take me and put me to death.
While pretending no indifference to earthly honors,
I do claim to be actuated in this contest
by something higher than an anxiety for office.
I charge you to drop every paltry
and insignificant thought for any man’s success.
It is nothing; I am nothing;
Judge Douglas is nothing.
But do not destroy
that immortal emblem of humanity—
the Declaration of American Independence.



Ottawa, Illinois
August 21

A crowd has filled the square around a platform on which Lincoln is sitting while Douglas is speaking.

Ladies and gentlemen:
By an arrangement between
Mr. Lincoln and myself
we are present here today
to have a joint discussion as representatives
of the two great political parties
of the state and the Union.
While the Whig and Democratic parties differed
on a bank, the tariff, and other financial issues,
they agreed on the great slavery question
which now agitates the Union.
They both adopted the compromise measures
of 1850 as a just solution of this slavery question.
In 1854 I introduced into
the Senate of the United States
a bill to organize the territories
of Kansas and Nebraska
on that principle adopted in 1850
which was approved by both parties
in Illinois in 1851.
It said, “The true intent of this act
is not to legislate slavery into any state
or territory or to exclude it therefrom
but to leave the people thereof perfectly free
to form and regulate their domestic institutions
in their own way
subject only to the federal constitution.”
In 1854 Abraham Lincoln and Lyman Trumbull
arranged to dissolve the old Whig party
and the old Democratic party
and to connect the members of both
into an Abolition party
under the name of a Republican party
with the ambition to gain both seats
in the United States Senate.
Their Abolition platform was resolved
to restore Nebraska and Kansas to free territories,
to repeal and abrogate the fugitive slave law,
to restrict slavery to those states in which it exists,
to prohibit the admission
of any more slave states into the Union,
to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia,
and to exclude slavery from all the territories.

Each of these resolutions was cheered by many.

DOUGLAS (Cont'd.)
Now, gentlemen, your Black Republicans
have cheered every one of these propositions,
and yet I venture to say that
you cannot get Mr. Lincoln to come out
and say that he is in favor of each of them.
I put the question to Mr. Lincoln
whether he stands by each article in that creed.
I mean nothing personally disrespectful or unkind.
I have known Mr. Lincoln for twenty-five years
since I met him in the state legislature.
While in Congress he distinguished himself
by his opposition to the Mexican war,
taking the side of the common enemy
against this country.
The indignation of the people obliged him
to retire to private life
until the Black Republican platform
was devised in 1854.
He says that this government cannot endure
permanently divided into free and slave states.
Why not?
Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison,
Hamilton, Jay, and the great men of that day
made this government divided
into free states and slave states
and left each state perfectly free
to do as it pleased on the subject of slavery.
They provided that each state
should retain its own legislature
and its own sovereign power to do as it pleased
in all that was local and not national.

Lincoln has told us that
he is utterly opposed to the Dred Scott decision
and will not submit to it
because it deprives the Negro
of the rights of citizenship.
Are you in favor of conferring upon the Negro
the rights of citizenship?
Do you desire to strike out
of our state constitution that clause
which keeps slaves and free Negroes
out of Illinois?
If you desire to allow them to come into the state
and vote on an equal basis with the white man
and to make them eligible to office
and to serve on juries,
then support Mr. Lincoln
and the Black Republican party.
I am opposed to Negro citizenship in any form.
I believe this government was made
by white men for the benefit of white men
and their posterity forever.
I do not hold that
because the Negro is our inferior
that therefore he ought to be a slave.
I hold that humanity and Christianity require
that the Negro shall have every right
consistent with the safety of the society
and the public good.
Each state and territory must decide for itself.
Illinois has decided the Negro
shall not be a slave
but shall not be a citizen with political rights
that would put him on an equality
with the white man.
That policy is satisfactory
to the Democratic party and to me.
But the Republicans say
he ought to be made a citizen with equal rights.
I hold that Kentucky
has the right to protect slavery.
Maine has said that free Negroes shall vote.
I would never consent to that,
but I am not going to quarrel
with Maine for differing.
Our fathers knew that the North and South,
having different climates,
productions and interests,
required different institutions.
Mr. Lincoln’s uniformity is a new doctrine
which I believe will dissolve the Union
if it succeeds.
They are trying to array all the northern states
in one body against the South
to excite a sectional war
between the free states and the slave states.
I am told my time is out.
Mr. Lincoln will now address you.

During cheers Douglas sits down, and Lincoln stands up to speak. About twice as many people are cheering for Lincoln as cheered for Douglas.

My fellow citizens:
When a man hears himself misrepresented,
it provokes him;
but when the misrepresentation
becomes very gross and palpable,
it is more apt to amuse him.
I made no arrangement with Judge Trumbull
nor did he or I have anything
to do with that Republican platform of 1854.
I have no purpose to introduce
political and social equality
between the white and black races.
I agree with Judge Douglas that
the Negro is not my equal in many respects;
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 living man.
I would not vote that the Mexican war
was righteously begun by the President;
but whenever they asked for
any money to pay the soldiers there,
I gave the same votes that Judge Douglas did.
I believe we shall not have peace
on the slavery question
until its opponents arrest the further spread of it
and place it where the public mind
shall rest in the belief that
it is in the course of ultimate extinction.
As I understand the Dred Scott decision,
if any one man wants slaves,
all the rest have no way
of keeping that one man from holding them.
When I spoke in Springfield,
I had no thought that I was doing anything
to bring about a war
between the free and slave states,
or that I was doing anything to bring about
a political and social equality
of the black and white races.

What is necessary to nationalize slavery?
In the next Dred Scott decision
the Supreme Court may decide that
no state under the Constitution
can exclude slavery
just as they have already decided that
neither Congress nor the territorial legislatures
can exclude slavery.
To make slavery national
Judge Douglas is exerting every day
his influence on public sentiment.
With public sentiment nothing can fail;
without it nothing can succeed.
By molding public sentiment he goes deeper
than by enacting statutes
or pronouncing decisions.
When he shall succeed by bringing
public sentiment to avow his principles,
then a second Dred Scott decision
may make slavery lawful in all the states.
My friends, that ends the chapter.

Lincoln sits down, and Douglas rises to give his rebuttal.


The debate is over, and some of Lincoln’s supporters are carrying him on their shoulders amid cheering.



August 27

The platform is low and small, just large enough to hold the speakers, two moderators, and reporters who are taking down the speeches in the newly invented shorthand.

I now propose that
I will answer the interrogatories
upon condition that Judge Douglas
will answer questions from me
not exceeding the same number.
I give him an opportunity to respond.

Lincoln turns and looks at Douglas, who is sitting behind him; but Douglas remains silent.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
I now say to you that
I will answer his interrogatories,
whether he answers mine or not.
I am not pledged at all upon any of the points
on which he has asked.
In regard to the Fugitive Slave Law
I have never hesitated to say that I think
under the Constitution of the United States
the people of the southern states are entitled
to a Congressional Fugitive Slave Law.
In regard to the admission of any more slave states
into the Union, I would be exceedingly sorry
to have to vote on that question;
but if people adopted a slave constitution,
I would vote to admit them into the Union.
I should be exceedingly glad to see
slavery abolished in the District of Columbia
upon these conditions:
first, that the abolition shall be gradual;
second, that it should be approved by a vote
of the majority of qualified voters in the District,
and third, that compensation should be made
to unwilling owners.
In regard to abolishing the slave trade
between the different states, I am not pledged.
I am pledged to the right and duty
of Congress to prohibit slavery
in all the United States territories.

I now proceed to propound to the Judge
the interrogatories that I have framed.
One, if the people of Kansas
shall adopt a state constitution
and ask admission into the Union
before they have the requisite number
of inhabitants according to the English Bill—
some 93,000—will you vote to admit them?
Two, can the people of a United States Territory
in any lawful way against the wishes
of any citizen of the United States
exclude slavery from its limits
prior to the formation of a state constitution?
Three, if the Supreme Court of the United States
shall decide that states can not exclude slavery
from their limits,
are you in favor of acquiescing in adopting
and following each decision
as a rule of political action?
Four, are you in favor of
acquiring additional territory
in disregard of how such acquisition
may affect the nation on the slavery question?


Douglas is speaking.

First, in reference to Kansas it is my opinion
that as she has population enough
to constitute a slave state,
she has people enough for a free state.
Second, Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer
a hundred times that in my opinion
the people of a territory can by lawful means
exclude slavery from their limits
prior to the formation of a state constitution.
Third, if the Supreme Court shall decide that
a state cannot exclude slavery from its own limits,
will I submit to it?
Mr. Lincoln’s question casts an imputation
upon the Supreme Court that they would violate
the Constitution of the United States.
I tell him that such a thing is not possible.
It would be an act of moral treason.
Fourth, whenever it becomes necessary
in our growth and progress
to acquire more territory, I am in favor of it
without reference to the question of slavery;
and when we have acquired it,
I will leave the people free to do as they please
either to make it slave or free territory.

If Mr. Buchanan stands, as I doubt not he will,
by the recommendation contained in his message
that hereafter all state constitutions
ought to be submitted to the people
before the admission of the state into the Union,
he will find me standing by him firmly,
shoulder to shoulder, in carrying it out.
I know Mr. Lincoln’s object;
he wants to divide the Democratic party
in order that he may defeat me
and get to the Senate.



September 2

Lincoln is speaking to a small group that has gathered.

We all know how fierce the agitation was
in Congress last winter
and what a narrow escape Kansas had
from being admitted into the Union
with a Constitution that was detested
by ninety-nine hundredths of her citizens.
An election was held in Kansas in August,
and the Constitution which
was submitted to the people
was voted down by a large majority.
So Kansas is still out of the Union,
and there is a probability that
she will remain out for some time.
But Judge Douglas says
the slavery question is settled.
He says the bill which he introduced
in the Senate on the 4th day of January, 1854,
settled the slavery question forever!
He knows and you know that
the question is not settled
and that his ill-timed experiment to settle it
has made it worse than it ever was before.
You can fool all the people some of the time
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
Douglas will tell a lie
to ten thousand people one day
even though he knows he may have to deny it
to five thousand the next day.



Charleston, Illinois
September 18

In the parade going down the main street the Lincoln wagon carries 32 Republican young ladies with the banner that reads “Westward the star of empire takes it way. The girls link-on to Lincoln, as their mothers did to Clay.” A band of Douglasites are carrying a banner that pictures a white man standing with a Negro woman followed by a Negro boy with the inscription “Negro Equality.”


A large platform has been erected and is crowded with people in the middle of a large crowd. Republicans are trying to erect a banner that shows Lincoln as a mastiff sinking his teeth into Douglas’s throat with the caption “Lincoln worrying Douglas at Freeport.” Lincoln sees the uproar it causes and makes them take it down. At the same time the Douglasites try to replace it with the “Negro Equality” banner, but two Republicans jump down from the platform and tear it up.


Lincoln is speaking from the platform and is being applauded often.

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.
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.
There is a physical difference
between the white and black races
which I believe will forever 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
assigned to the white race.
I do not perceive that because the white man
is to have 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.
My understanding is that
I can just let her alone.


Douglas is speaking and being applauded and cheered.

Gentlemen, allow me to suggest that
silence is the best compliment you can pay me.
I need my whole time,
and your cheering only occupies it.
Mr. Lincoln simply contented himself
by saying that he was not in favor of
social and political equality
between the white man and the Negro,
and did not desire the law so changed
as to make the latter voters or eligible to office.
I am glad that I have at last succeeded
in getting an answer out of him
upon the question of Negro citizenship
and eligibility to office,
for I have been trying to bring him to the point
ever since this canvass commenced.

Mr. Lincoln has several times charged that
the Supreme Court, President Pierce,
President Buchanan and myself
entered into a conspiracy
to establish slavery all over this country.
I branded this charge as a falsehood.
I told him, “Mr. Lincoln,
I know what you are after—
you want to occupy my time in personal matters
to prevent me from showing up
the revolutionary principles
which the Abolition party—
whose candidate you are—
have proclaimed to the world.”
At the time the Nebraska bill was introduced,
there was no Dred Scott case
pending in the Supreme Court.
The owner of Dred Scott was not a Democrat
but the Rev. Dr. Chaffee,
an Abolition member of Congress
from Massachusetts and his wife.
Dred Scott’s defense was conducted
by Abolition lawyers.
In 1854 James Buchanan was representing
this country at the court of St. James, Great Britain,
and he did not return until about three years later.


Lincoln is giving his reply.

There is no way of putting an end
to the slavery question amongst us
but to put it back upon the basis
where our fathers placed it,
no way but to keep it
out of our new territories—
to restrict it forever to the old states
where it now exists.
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.
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.
I say we will have no end
to the slavery agitation
until it takes one turn or the other.
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.

Judge Douglas revives the old charge
against me in reference to the Mexican War.
The more respectable papers of his own party
have been compelled to acknowledge
that it was a lie.

Lincoln turns and walks over to ORLANDO FICKLIN on the platform, grabs the left side of his collar, and leads him to the apron of the platform.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
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 knows that whenever there was
an attempt to procure a vote of mine
which would endorse the origin
and justice of the war,
I refused to give such endorsement
and voted against it;
but I never voted against supplies for the army,
and he knows as well as Judge Douglas
that whenever a dollar was asked
by way of compensation
for the benefit of the soldiers,
I gave all the votes that Ficklin or Douglas did
and perhaps more.

My friends, I wish to say
in reference to this Mexican war,
my recollection is that Mr. Lincoln
voted for Mr. Ashmun’s resolution
declaring that the Mexican war was
unnecessarily and unconstitutionally
commenced by the President.

That is the truth.



October 13

Lincoln is speaking from the platform.

I suggest that the difference of opinion is
no other than the difference between
the men who think slavery a wrong
and those who do not think it wrong.
We in the Republican party think it is
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 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 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.
Judge Douglas has the high distinction,
so far as I know, of never having said
slavery is right or wrong.
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 here;
it must not be opposed in the slave states
because it is 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.
Then where is the place to oppose it?
There is no place in the country
to oppose this evil overspreading the continent.
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.”
When Judge Douglas says
he “don’t care whether slavery
is voted up or voted down,”
it is because he don’t see anything wrong in it.


Douglas is speaking from the platform.

If each state will only agree
to mind its own business,
and let its neighbors alone,
there will be peace forever between us.
We in Illinois tried slavery when a territory
and found it was not good for us
in this climate and with our surroundings,
and hence we abolished it.
We then adopted a free state constitution,
as we had a right to do.
In this state we have declared that
a Negro shall not be a citizen,
and we have also declared that
he shall not be a slave.
We had a right to adopt that policy.
Missouri has just as good a right
to adopt the other policy.
I am now speaking of rights
under the Constitution,
and not of moral or religious rights.
I do not discuss the morals
of the people of Missouri
but let them settle that matter for themselves.
I hold that the people of the slaveholding States
are civilized men as well as ourselves,
that they bear consciences as well as we,
and that they are accountable to God
and their posterity and not to us.
It is for them to decide therefore
the moral and religious right
of the slavery question for themselves.
Let each state stand firmly
by that great constitutional right;
let each state mind its own business
and let its neighbors alone,
and there will be no trouble on this question.
If we will stand by that principle,
then Mr. Lincoln will find that
this republic can exist forever
divided into free and slave States,
as our fathers made it
and the people of each state have decided.
Stand by that great principle,
and we can go on as we have done,
increasing in wealth, in population, in power,
and in all the elements of greatness,
until we shall be the admiration
and terror of the world.
We can go on and enlarge
as our population increases,
and we require more room,
until we make this continent
one ocean-bound republic.
Under that principle the United States
can perform that great mission, that destiny
which providence has marked out for us.
Under that principle we can receive
with entire safety that stream of intelligence
which is constantly flowing
from the old world to the new,
filling up our prairies,
clearing our wildernesses
and building cities, towns, railroads
and other internal improvements,
and thus make this the asylum
of the oppressed of the whole earth.
We have this great mission to perform,
and it can only be performed
by adhering faithfully to that principle
of self-government on which
our institutions were all established.
The principle is the right of each State,
each territory, to decide this slavery question
for itself, to have slavery or not, as it chooses,
and it does not become Mr. Lincoln,
or anybody else, to tell the people of Kentucky
that they have no consciences,
that they are living in a state of iniquity,
and that they are cherishing an institution
to their bosoms in violation of the law of God.
Better for him to adopt the doctrine of
“judge not lest ye be judged.”
Let him perform his own duty at home.
I think there are objects of charity enough
in the free states to excite the sympathies
of all the benevolence we have amongst us
without going abroad in search of Negroes,
of whose condition we know nothing.
We have enough objects of charity at home,
and it is our duty to take care of our own poor,
and our own suffering, before we go abroad
to intermeddle with other people's business.



October 15

Banners have been banned from the platform. Douglas is speaking.

I hold that it is a violation
of the fundamental principles of this government
to throw the weight of federal power into the scale,
either in favor of the free or the slave states.
Equality among all the states of this Union
is a fundamental principle in our political system.
We have no more right to throw the weight
of the federal government into the scale
in favor of the slaveholding than the free states,
and last of all should our friends in the South
consent for a moment that Congress
should withhold its powers either way
when they know that there is a majority
against them in both houses of Congress.

My friends, there never was a time
when it was as important for the Democratic party,
for all national men, to rally and stand together
as it is today.
We find all sectional men
giving up past differences
and continuing the one question of slavery,
and when we find sectional men thus uniting,
we should unite to resist them
and their treasonable designs.
The whole South are rallying to the support
of the doctrine that if the people of a territory
want slavery, they have a right to have it,
and if they do not want it,
that no power on earth can force it upon them.
I hold that there is no principle on earth
more sacred to all the friends of freedom
than that which says that no institution,
no law, no constitution, should be forced
on an unwilling people contrary to their wishes;
and I assert that the Kansas and Nebraska bill
contains that principle.
If the people of all the states
will act on that great principle,
and each state mind its own business,
attend to its own affairs,
take care of its own Negroes
and not meddle with its neighbors,
then there will be peace
between the North and the South,
the East and the West,
throughout the whole Union.
Why can we not thus have peace?
Why should we thus allow
a sectional party to agitate this country,
to array the North against the South,
and convert us into enemies instead of friends,
merely that a few ambitious men
may ride into power on a sectional hobby?
How long is it since
these ambitious northern men
wished for a sectional organization?
Did any one of them dream of a sectional party
as long as the North was the weaker section
and the South the stronger?
Then all were opposed to sectional parties;
but the moment the North obtained
the majority in the House and Senate
by the admission of California
and could elect a President
without the aid of southern votes,
that moment ambitious northern men
formed a scheme to excite
the North against the South,
and make the people be governed
in their votes by geographical lines,
thinking that the North,
being the stronger section,
would outvote the South,
and consequently they, the leaders,
would ride into office on a sectional hobby.
I am told that my hour is out.
It was very short.

Douglas sits down among cheering, and Lincoln comes forward to speak amid more cheering.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
The Judge alludes very often
to the exclusive right which the states have
to decide the whole thing for themselves.
I agree with him very readily
that the different states have that right.
He is but fighting a man of straw
when he assumes that I am contending
against the right of the states
to do as they please about it.
Our controversy with him
is in regard to the new territories.
We agree that when the states come in as states
they have the right to do as they please.
We have no power as citizens of the free states
or as members of the federal Union
to disturb slavery in the states where it exists.
What I insist upon is that the new territories
shall be kept free from it
while in the territorial condition.
Judge Douglas assumes that
we have no interest in them—
that we have no right whatever to interfere.
I think that as white men
we have some interest.
Do we not wish for an outlet
for our surplus population?
If you go to the territory opposed to slavery
and another man comes with his slave
upon the assumption that the things are equal,
it turns out that he has
the equal right all his way,
and you have no part of it your way.
If he goes in and makes it a slave territory,
and by consequence a slave state,
is it not time that those who desire to have it
a free state were on equal ground?
How many Democrats are there about here
who have left slave states
and come into the free state of Illinois
to get rid of the institution of slavery?

Someone shouts, “A thousand.”

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
I reckon there are a thousand.
If the policy you are now advocating
had prevailed when this country
was in a territorial condition,
where would you have gone to get rid of it?
Where would you have found
your free state or territory to go to?
I am still in favor of our new territories
being in such a condition that white men
may find a home, may find some spot
where they can better their condition.
I am in favor of this not merely
for our own people who are born amongst us,
but as an outlet for
free white people everywhere.

On the point of my wanting to make war
between the free and the slave states,
there has been no issue between us.
So, too, when he assumes that
I am in favor of introducing
a perfect social and political equality
between the white and black races.
These are false issues,
upon which Judge Douglas
has tried to force the controversy.
There is no foundation in truth for the charge
that I maintain either of these propositions.
The real issue in this controversy is
the sentiment that looks upon
the institution of slavery as a wrong,
and others who do not look upon it as a wrong.
The Republican party looks upon it as being
a moral, social and political wrong.
They insist that it should be treated as a wrong,
and one of the methods of treating it as a wrong
is to make provision that it shall grow no larger.
They also desire a policy that looks to
a peaceful end of slavery at some time.

Has anything ever threatened
the existence of this Union
except this very institution of slavery?
What do we hold most dear amongst us?
Our own liberty and prosperity.
What has ever threatened
our liberty and prosperity
except this institution of slavery?
If this is true, how do you propose to improve
the condition of things by enlarging slavery—
by spreading it out and making it bigger?
You may have a cancer upon your person
and not be able to cut it out
lest you bleed to death;
but surely it is no way to cure it
to engraft it and spread it
over your whole body.
That is no proper way of treating
what you regard as a wrong.
The peaceful way of dealing with it
as a wrong is restricting the spread of it
and not allowing it to go into new countries
where it has not already existed.
That is the peaceful way, the way in which
the fathers themselves set us the example.
On the other hand there is a sentiment
which treats slavery as not being wrong.
That is the Democratic sentiment of this day.

The real issue is the eternal struggle
between the two principles of right and wrong.
The one is the common right of humanity
and the other the divine right of kings.
It is the same spirit that says,
“You work and toil and earn bread,
and I'll eat it.”
No matter in what shape it comes,
whether from the mouth of a king who seeks
to bestride the people of his own nation
and live by the fruit of their labor,
or from one race of men
as an apology for enslaving another race,
it is the same tyrannical principle.
Judge Douglas has been the most prominent
instrument in changing the position
of the institution of slavery
which the fathers of the government
expected to come to an end ere this—
placing it where he openly confesses
he has no desire there shall ever be an end of it.
I do not believe it is a constitutional right
to hold slaves in a territory of the United States.


Douglas is making his reply.

Mr. Lincoln looks forward to a time
when slavery shall be abolished everywhere.
I look forward to a time when each state
shall be allowed to do as it pleases.
I care more for the great principle
of self-government,
the right of the people to rule,
than I do for all the Negroes in Christendom.
I ask you to tell me whether
the democrats or the abolitionists are right.
You cannot carry slavery
where the people do not want it.
Suppose one section makes war upon
a peculiar institution of the opposite section.
The only remedy and safety is that
we shall stand by the Constitution
as our fathers made it,
obey the laws as they are passed
while they stand the proper test,
and sustain the decisions of the Supreme Court
and the constituted authorities.

Douglas has concluded the last of the seven formal debates. Lincoln stands up and comes forward to shake his hand amid the cheering and applause.



November 2, 1858

Lincoln comes into the parlor where Mary and 15-year-old ROBERT LINCOLN are nervously trying to read while TAD and WILLIE play on the floor. Lincoln sits down and tries to relax.

I have just come from the telegraph office.
Most of the old Whig districts in the west
have gone for Judge Douglas.
I have lost the Senate again.

Oh no. What about the popular vote?
Did you win the popular vote?

Yes, it looks like more people are voting
for Republicans than for Democrats;
but the growth in population in the north
is not represented in the last reapportionment.

So once again you have been cheated
out of a Senate seat by unfair politics.
After all your campaigning
you must feel very disappointed.

I feel like a boy who has stubbed his toe;
it hurts too bad to laugh,
and I am too big to cry.

But father, your debates with Senator Douglas
were printed in newspapers across the country.
You have become a national figure.

We have persuaded many people
to vote for the Republican party,
but now I need to get back to my law practice
so that I can make some money.


Lincoln and Herndon are talking.

Douglas has gone to the South
to try to regain their support;
but I do not think he can do it
after he answered your second question
by saying that people in the territories
have the right to exclude slavery.
He has even been stripped of his chairmanship
of the territory committee in the Senate.

Yes, we have prevented him
from becoming a Republican
which would have compromised our party,
and now he has split the Democratic party
between the North and the South.

That means that the Republican party
should have a good chance
of winning the Presidency in 1860.

If only I had won the Senate seat,
I would be the leading candidate.
Now I shall sink out of view and be forgotten.
Yet I believe I have made some marks
which will tell for the cause of civil liberty
long after I am gone.

You did help the Republican party win
a popular majority here in Illinois.
Some are suggesting Seward for President
and you for Vice President.

I might do some lecturing,
but I need to get back to the law practice
that you have kept going for us.

The end of Part 3

Copyright © 2008 by Sanderson Beck

Learning Politics and Law
In Congress and Out
Debating Douglas
Becoming President
Civil War Begins
Proclaiming Emancipation
War by Conscription
Getting Re-elected
Victory and Death

How Lincoln Could Have Prevented Civil War
Lincoln Bibliography
Lincoln Chronology

BECK index