Clark E. (Clark Ezra) Carr.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates : an address delivered by Hon. Clark E. Carr before the Illinois State Bar Association at Galesburg, July 11, 1907 online

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Online LibraryClark E. (Clark Ezra) CarrThe Lincoln-Douglas debates : an address delivered by Hon. Clark E. Carr before the Illinois State Bar Association at Galesburg, July 11, 1907 → online text (page 1 of 3)
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Lincoln-Douglas Debates

An Address Delivered By


Before the



Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

State of Indiana through the Indiana State Library

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

At the meeting of the Illinois State
Bar association on Thursday after-
noon, Hon. Clark E. Can- delivered
the following address on the Lincoln-
Douglas debates:

In one of his speeches during the
great campaign of 185S in Illinois,
known as the Lincoln-Douglas de-
bates, Mr. Lincoln said:

"Twenty-two years ago Judge
Douglas and I became acquainted. We
were both young then — he a trifle
younger than I. Even then we were
both ambitious, I perhaps quite as
much so as he. With me, the race
of ambition has been a failure — a flat
failure; with him it has been one of
splendid success. His name fills the
nation, and is not unknown even in
foreign lands. I affect no contempt
;or the high eminence he has reached.
I would rather stand upon that emi-
ence than wear the richest crown that
ever pressed a monarch's brow."
Mr. Lincoln's Struggles.
As Mr. Lincoln said, he was ambi-
tious, but never did a young man
struggle for success under so many
embarrassments, and few have been
so many times disappointed.

He was as a young man, awkward
and ungainly, and of the subjects
taught in the schools he knew little.
There are now in Illinois few school
boys of ten years old that are not
better informed in what are called
the common branches than was Ab-
raham Lincoln at twenty.

But even then, Abraham Lincoln
was by no means ignorant. He had
read all the books he could get,
among which were the Bible, the
"Pilgrim's Progress," and Weems's
Life of Washington. He was always
an inquirer. From those with whom
he came in contact he was always
learning This continued so long as
he lived.

Mr. Lincoln, as he grew older, be-
came ambitious to hold office. The
place he held longest was that of
member of the Illinois legislature, to
which he was elected and re-elected
four times. Finally he was elected
to the lower house of congress. Then

he seemed to be upon the high road
to success.

But this proved to be a disappoint-
ment. While he voted for supplies
to the army, he disapproved of the
Mexican war, then being fought, and
frankly so declared. The war spirit
was on and on account of the opin-
ions he expressed his re-election was
not even considered.

When he left congress on March 4,
1849, or more properly speaking,
when he was left out of congress, he
renounced politics, and returning to
his dingy law office, devoted himself
to his practice, riding the circuit as
before, intending to devote himself
to his profession the remainder of his

But in the winter of 1854 he was
aroused to such a sense of duty that
he could not refrain from returning
to politics.

Repeal of Missouri Compromise.
The Missouri compromise line, that
great barrier against slavery, was
menaced, and it was finally assailed
by the most potential man in con-
gress, by Senator Douglas, under the
plea that the people should be al-
lowed to prohibit or introduce slav-
ery, as the majority should deter-
mine, under the doctrine o? what he
called 'Popular Sovereignty." Mr.
Lincoln was. as were all the free soil
men, alarmed. He was opposed to
the extension of slavery at all, even
if the people of a territory wanted it.
Besides, he distrusted Senator Doug-
las, and felt by no means confident
that, with the great barrier removed,
he still would not. under the influence
of the South, force slavery upon a
new territory against the will of her

Mr. Lincoln watched with intense
interest the struggle in congress,
which resulted in the free soil men
being defeated and overwhelmed by
the repeal of the Missouri compro-
mise and the overthrow of the great
barrier against slavery.

In the senate the vote stood, yeas
37. nays 14. In the house it stood,
yeas 113, nays 100.

The bill was carried through both
houses by the majestic potentiality of
Senator Douglas. Outraged and

stunned by what he regarded as a
great wrong, Mr. Lincoln could not
refrain from denouncing the measure.
He was unknown beyond the limits
of Illinois, but in Illinois he was the
leader in turning the people against
the Nebraska bill.

General Shields.'s term in the sen-
ate was about to expire. Notwith-
standing the almost superhuman ef-
forts of Senator Douglas, who pro-
claimed from every stump in Illinois
that he "would iairly and honestly
carry out the principles oT the Kan-
sis-Nebraska bill," and that the will
of the people should govern, the leg-
islature of Illinois was carried against
Judge Douglas and his Nebraska bill,
on joint ballot, by a majority of sev-
en, insuring the defeat of General
Shields, Senator Douglas's colleague
and supporter, and making possible
the election of an anti-Nebraska bill
man as his successor.

His Disappointment.

Then came Mr. Lincoln's greatest
disappointment. Above all things else
tie wanted to be a United States sen-
ator. He wrote to Norman B. Judd:
"I would rather have a full term as
United States senator than the presi-

Of the 52 anti-Nebraska votes in
that legislature, Mr. Lincoln received
4 5. This continued for ten ballots,
on every one of which he hoped to be
elected. Finally he became satisfied
that, unless he withdrew, the anti-
Nebraska democrats (who still held
so much allegiance to their old party
that they could not support an old
line Whig) would go over to Gover-
nor Matteson, a Douglas Democrat,
and elect him. Mr. Lincoln withdrew,
and Lyman Trumbull, an anti-Ne-
braska Democrat, was elected.

Never was there such magnanimity
in politics, never such generosity. Mr.
Lincoln knew that in order to reap
the Iruits of the victory the new par-
ty had so gallantly achieved, an anti-
Nebraska man must be elected. It is
said that Judge Stephen T. Logan,
then the foremost Illinois lawyer,
shed, tears when, at Lincoln's earnest
solicitation, he withdrew his name.
Ninety-nine hundredths of his party
wanted Mr. Lincoln elected, and still,
to make sure of a senator whom he
knew would represent the views of
the new party, he withdrew.

Mr. Lincoln Withdrew.

With a smile upon his lips and an
admonition to his friends to stand
firm for principle, from the portals
of the United States senate, whose
doors seemed to be opening for him
to enter, Mr. Lincoln went back again
to his law office.

While, up to the age of fifty-two
Mr. Lincoln's life was full of disap-
pointments, and, in the sense of
achieving success a failure, he was
going through a course of discipline
which prepared him for the greatest
responsibilities that w r ere ever un-
dertaken by a human being. His
great life work was performed in four
years. Fifty-two years of preparation
for four years of service! In this re-
gard his life has no parallel except
that presented in the life of the lowly

Senator Douglas's Brilliant Career.

Senator Douglas's whole life had
been made up of successes and tri-
umphs. "In the bright vocabulary"
of his life "there had been no such
word as fail."

At twenty years of age, alone and
,friendless, he walked into the town
of Winchester, Scott county, Illinois,
and almost immediately entered upon
a career of success and achievement,
which continued during his whole

Ten years from that day, when he
walked into Winchester, at thirty
years of age, he had been a member
of the Illinois legislature, state's at-
torney, register of the land office at
Springfield, secretary of state for Illi-
nois, judge of the supreme court of
Illinois, and was on his way to Wash-
ington to take his seat in congress,
to which he had been elected. He
was elected and re-elected three suc-
cessive times to the lower house, but
in 1847, at thirty-four years of age.
before entering upon his third term
in the house, he was elected to the
United States senate, and in 185 3, six
years later, was re-elected without
serious opposition.

Twice in national conventions of
his party, he had been a candidate for

He had been prominently connect-
ed with all the great measures before
congress from the time he became a
member, notably the compromise
measures of 1850, the Oregon boun-
dary question, the legislation relating

to the Mexican war, the Clayton and
Bulwer treaty, the Kansas-Nebraska

bill, and the contest over the Le-
compton constitution. One of the
most important measures he carried
through congress was that chartering
the Illinois Central Railway, appro-
priating a large grant of land lor its
construction. In this charter it was
provided that, in consideration of the
vast grant of land, the railway com-
pany should pay into the treasury of
Illinois 7 per cent of its gross earn-
ings, a precedent that should have
been, but was not, followed by subse-
quent land grants by congress.
Douglas' Gallant Fight for Popular
Five years had rolled around since
the barrier against slavery had been
removed. Kansas was knocking at
the doors of congress to be admitted
as a state. A constitution had been
adopted at Lecompton by a small co-
terie of pro-slavery men. If admitted
under that constitution the curse of
human slavery would have been im-
posed upon that commonwealth. The
Democratic administration sought to
impose that constitution upon the
people. Then came the test. Senator
Douglas had proclaimed popular sov-
ereignty from every stump in Illinois,
declaring that, while he cared not
whether slavery was voted down or
voted up, the will of the people of a
territory should govern; that if they
voted to establish slavery it should
be established; if they voted against
slavery the territory should be free.
Would 'Senator Douglas stand by the
principle of popular sovereignty and
favor the admission of Kansas as a
free state? To oppose a policy of
forcing slavery upon the people of
Kansas against their will would in-
volve breaking with Mr. Buchanan
and his being ostracized by the ad-
ministration. To do so would involve
a bitter, relentless war by the ad-
ministration upon every one of Sena-
tor Douglas's friends and drive them
from office. Senator Douglas grandly
stood by the principles he had pro-

Went to White House.
On the 5th of December when con-
gress met, the great senator at once
went to the White House. He told
the president, Mr. Buchanan, that the
Lecompton constitution did not ex-
press the will of the people of Kan-

sas, and. if he recommended its adop-
tion he ( D-.uglas) would light it in
congress. Mr. Buchanan, who was
entirely under the domination of the
slave power, declared that he would
exercise all the power of the admin-
istration to have Kansas admitted
under the Lecompton constitution,
which meant, cramming slavery down
the throats of the people against their
will; and warned the senator against
opposing him, declaring that no Dem-
ocrat ever yet differed with an ad-
ministration of his choice, without
being crushed. Douglas replied that
he would denounce the Lecompton
constitution in the senate, exclaiming:
"Mr. President, I wish you to remem-
ber that General Jackson is dead!"
and withdrew.

In the annals of American states-
manship scarcely anything can be
found so heroic as the fight of Sen-
ator Douglas for the principle of pop-
ular sovereignty, in his war upon the
Lecompton constitution. He had done
more for the election of Mr. Buch-
anan than any man living. He had
carried his own and several other
states for him. The platform upon
which Mr. Buchanan was elected was
made from principles he had enun-
ciated. He then controlled all the
patronage of his own state and in a
greater degree than any other public
man the patronage of the country.
To break with the administration
would deprive him of this influence
and drive every friend he had
irom public position. But he had
given his word that whichever way
the people of a territory voted the
principle of popular sovereignty
should be maintained, and the will of
the people should be carried into ef-
fect. He did not hesitate. He did
not falter. He fought as he had
never fought before, and did not rest
until the Lecompton constitution was
buried out of sight. I know of no
more interesting chapter in American
history than that which tells of the
long, able, courageous and successful
struggle of Senator Douglas against
the Lecompton constitution.

His second term in the senate was
about to expire. Surely after such a
heroic struggle the people of Illinois
would not turn against their great
senator, whose name was a household
word in every city and wilderness of
the land.

Republicans Advised to Support Him.

Republicans outside of Illinois ad-
vised that no other candidate be con-
sidered. Horace Greeley, in the New
York Tribune, the leading Republican
paper of the country, advised this.
But Senator Douglas had declared
that he "cared not whether slavery
was voted down or voted up." He
had declared that had the people of
Kansas favored slavery, he would
have, with just the same earnestness
favored her admission under a con-
stitution of their choice, adding an-
other slave state to the union.

The Republicans of Illinois had
planted themselves upon the principle
of "no more slave states." Whatever
a. territory might do, however she
voted, they would not consent that
she be permitted to come into the
union as a slave state. This was the
"undamental principle upon which
;he Republican party was founded.

Outside of Illinois comparatively
few had ever heard of Mr. Lincoln.
If Mr. Greely had heard his name, he
did not at all consider him.

Senator Douglas came home as a
candidate for re-election, with all the
eclat and glory of his success in de-
feating the Lecompton constitution.
He had demonstrated to his country-
men that he was loyal to the principle
of "popular sovereignty," that he
was able to vindicate it in congress,
and that no power could cope with
him or withstand him in the national
legislature: With such a record he
went before the people of Illinois con-
fident of an easy victory.
Senator Douglas Not Permitted to
Dictate Issue of Campaign.

But Senator Douglas was not per-
mitted to dictate the issue upon
which the campaign was to be con-

Just before he came home the most
startling and far-reaching proposi-
tion that had ever been enunciated
since the foundation of the govern-
ment was procaimed, — a declaration
that was so simple and so clear and
so conclusive that it was a marvel
that it had not been announced be-
fore. It was: "A house divided
against itself cannot stand. I believe
that this government cannot endure
permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect that the union will
be dissolved. I do not expect the
house to fall — but I do expect that it

will cease to be divided. It will be-
come 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 will
rest in the belief that it is in the
course of ultimate extinction, or its
advocates will push it forward till it
shall become alike lawful in all the
states old as well as new — north as
well as south."

A Matter oi' Wonder.

It is a matter of wonder that some
such sentime'nt had not been ex-
pressed by Hamilton or Madison or
Jay, or by Marshall, or by the hitherto
greatest expounder of the constitu-
tion, Daniel Webster, and that it re-
mained for a comparatively obscure
Illinois lawyer to apprehend it and
give expression to it.

It remained for Abraham Lincoln,
in the quiet of his law office at
Springfield, to evolve the mighty
conception. That law office had be-
come an eyre, a mountain summit, so
to speak, from whose sublime heights
the whole history and experiences of
the nation were passed in review, and
from which he was able to pierce the
veil of the future, and from what
had been, see what must be — to "look
before and after."

Rising far above the politics and
the statesmanship of his day. Abra-
ham Lincoln had become a philos-
opher and a seer. After making this
wonderful declaration, he proceeded
to show by a most ingenious and for-
cible presentation of facts that the
nation was tending to a condition
which would result, unless the tide
was turned, in its becoming "all
slave." One of his strongest argu-
ments in proof of this was based up-
on the Dred Scott decision, and the
attitude of Senator Douglas in indors-
ing it. This brought that decision
prominently into the discussions.

Vainly Tried To Answer.

From that day forward, in all of
his speeches during the great cam-
paign and afterwards, Senator Doug-
las quoted the sentiment expressed
by Mr. Lincoln and vainly tried to
answer it.

Senator Douglas arrived in Chica-
go on the 9th of July, where he had
a royal welcome and reception, and
spoke on that evening.

Mr. Lincoln went up to hear him.

and by invitation occupied a promin-
ent seat upon the platform.

Debate Began Jn Chicago.

It may properly be said that then
and there the debates began. The
next evening Mr. Lincoln, in Chicago,
replied to the senator, and from that
time forward, at different places —
Bloomington, Springfield and others
— they spoke, following and answer-
ing each other.

Mr. Lincoln attended several of
Senator Douglas's meetings, where he
was treated with the utmost courtesy,
but Senator Douglas attended none of
his. Thousands of Republicans at-
tended Senator Douglas's meetings, but
very few Democrats attended Mr.
Lincoln's meetings. The tact was,
Senator Douglas was so famous that
everybody rushed to see and hear
him whenever he appeared.

Mr. Lincoln chafed under this con-
dition of things. He wanted to reach
the Democrats. He finally concluded
that the only possible way for him to
do so was by speaking from the same
platform with his opponent, and so
he challenged the great senator to a
series of joint debates, face to face.

Senator Douglas replied, accepting
the challenge for seven joint debates,
and designated the times and places
where they were held, as follows:

Ottawa — August 21st.

Freeport — August 2 7 th.

Jonesboro — September 15th.

Charleston — September 18th.

Galesburg — October 7th.

Quincy — October 13th.

Alton — October 15th.
Senator Douglas's Great Reception in

The crowd that turned out to greet
Senator Douglas on that evening of
the 9th 6' July was enormous. Never
before had the people of Chicago
turned out in such vast numbers to
greet any human being. Never was
another human being so enthusiasti-
cally applauded. Republicans and
Democrats alike joined in the glad

Never did a politician turn a dem-
onstration so adroitly to his advan-
tage by making it an indorsement of
all his public acts, and to an expres-
sion of approval of his entire public

When he came home from congress
four years before, after he had been
the means of repealing the Missouri
compromise, and of breaking down

thi' great barrier against slavery, Sen-
ator Doug'as was greeted by a great
crowd, but with taunts and jeers,
instead o'l with demonstrations of ap-
proval. When he then essayed i"
speak his voice was drowned with
hisses and. catcalls, and denunciations,
and curses. He stood for hours be-
fore that outraged mass of people,
vainly endeavoring to be heard. He
tried all the arts of the trained public
speaker of which he was a master.
He appealed, begged and threatened,
sought to amuse and to awaken a
feeling of sympathy, but it was all of
no avail. The people had assembled
to denounce him, and they would not
permit him to speak. It was Satur-
day night and he struggled until mid-
night. When the clock struck the hour
that ushered in the Sabbath he ex-
claimed: "It is Sunday, I will go to
church, and you may go to hell!" and
withdrew. He said afterwards that
after the repeal of the Missouri com-
promise, he could have traveled by
the light 61 his own burning effigies
all the way from Boston to Chicago.

Senator Douglas, as has been said,
made the most of this great ovation,
so different from that of four years
before. After referring to "this vast
sea o^ human faces," "a reception like
this, so great in numbers that no hu-
man voice can be heard by its count-
less thousands," he modestly declared
that he "had not the vanity to believe
that it was any personal compliment"
to him, and then he proceeded to
claim it all as an indorsement of the
principle of "popular sovereignty,"
which he represented, and by infer-
ence, that it was an indorsement of
the Nebraska bill, which they had so
bitterly opposed. He then gave a
graphic account of the struggle in
congress to defeat the Lecompton
constitution. He acknowledged the
services of the Republicans in com-
ing to his support, and claimed that,
by this action, they sustained the
principle of leaving the question of
slavery or freedom to the people of
the territory, as laid down in his Ne-
braska bill, exclaiming that, "I regard
the great principle of popular sover-
eignty as having been vindicated and
made triumphant in this land."

He read a resolution passed in Wie
Illinois legislature seven years before,
expressing the sentiment that the
people of a territory should govern
themselves, and claimed that that

resolution was an instruction from
the people of Illinois for him to fa-
vor the Nebraska bill and repeal the
Missouri compromise.

He then took up Mr. Lincoln's
Springfield speech, in which he de-
clared that this government cannot
endure permanently half slave and
half free, and asserted that by this
"Mr. Lincoln advocates boldly and
clearly a war of sections, a war of
the North against the South; of the
free states against the slave states —
a war of extermination, to be con-
tinued relentlessly until one or the
other shall be subdued, and all the
states shall either become free or be-
come slave."

He then argued that Lincoln's doc-
trine meant "uniformity" in all the
states, and claimed that this of ail
others was the thing that the framers
of the constitution sought to avoid;
that on account of the differences of
soil and climate, the laws and domes-
tic institutions which suited one state
in a. republic as large as ours must
be entirely different from those of an-
other — "Different laws to govern the
granite hills of New Hampshire, the
rice fields of the Carolinas, the agri-
cultural regions of New York and
Pennsylvania, the mining regions of
the Pacific coast, and the lumber re-
gions of Maine.' Each locality he
declared having separate and distinct
interests required separate and dis-
tinct laws. "Uniformity," he declared
"in local and domestic affairs would
be destructive of state rights, of state
sovereignty, of personal liberty, and
personal freedom. * * * Uniform-
ity is the parent of despotism the
world over, not only in politics but in
religion. Whenever you declare that
all states must be 'free or slave, all
labor must be white or black, you
have destroyed the greatest safeguard
of our institutions."

It is impossible to give the whole
argument of Senator Douglas upon
this matter, which was extended and
exhaustive, and apparently conclu-

He then took up tne Dred Scott
case, and stated that Mr. Lincoln
was making war upon the supreme
court, and claimed that no citizen
had a right to question its decisions,
declaring that "as a lawyer I feel at
liberty to appear before the court and
controvert any principle of law, while
the question is pending before the

tribunal; but, when the decisions is
made, my private opinion, your opin-
ion, and all other opinions, must yield
to the majesty of that authoritative
adjudication," exclaiming: "What se-
curity have you for your property,
for your reputation, and for your per-
sonal rights, if the courts are not up-

After further extended remarks up-
on the sacredness of judicial opinions,
and declaring that he had "no dispo-
sition to appeal from the supremo
court to a town meeting,' the sena-
tor told of an eminent Illinois lawyer
who used to say that the only defect
in our state judicial system could be
cured by giving the privilege of tak-
ing an appeal, on all constitutional
questions, from the supreme court to
a justice of the peace, whereupon

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Online LibraryClark E. (Clark Ezra) CarrThe Lincoln-Douglas debates : an address delivered by Hon. Clark E. Carr before the Illinois State Bar Association at Galesburg, July 11, 1907 → online text (page 1 of 3)