J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.2) online

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"Douglas resigned as judge of the Supreme Court to run for Congress in
June, 1843, after serving two years and a little over three months on that bench;
he was elected representative and twice re-elected; shortly after his third election
the Legislature of Illinois elected him to the United States Senate, and he served
as a member of that body until his death. ... A public prosecutor before he
was twenty-two, leading counsel in some of the most important cases heard in
the state during the next few years, a Supreme Court judge at twenty-seven, Doug-
las' career at the Illinois bar has few parallels for brilliancy in the annals of


Stephen A. Douglas was too broad a man to be judged solely by the part taken
by him in the events the recital of which we have given in a preceding chapter.
Even the course he pursued during the exciting week in Chicago in the fall of
1850, and the false doctrines he advocated on many occasions afterwards, or even
the debates with Lincoln in 1858, do not afford sufficient ground for an unfavorable
verdict upon his character and public services. Eventually Douglas showed him-
self to have the true spirit of a patriot, and hesitated not to sacrifice himself and
his political standing with his Southern friends, when it became apparent to him,
as it did at length, that such was his duty.

The reader who wishes to understand the character of Douglas may profitably
peruse the volume by Hon. Clark E. Carr, published in 1909, in which the career
of Douglas is fully set forth and its results estimated. In view of the fact that
he was at one time the champion of a losing cause, the author feels that "his
nobility and purity of character, his sublime patriotism and transcendent abilities,
have not been appreciated as they deserve to be." The grandeur of the character
and achievements of Lincoln "became so exalted as to overshadow, for a time, the
work of the great senator ; but the patriotic people of America," says Carr, "should
never forget the public services of Senator Douglas. Great as is the fame of Mr.
Lincoln, it may be doubted whether his name would ever have been known to any
considerable degree beyond the limits of the State of Illinois, but for his proving
himself to be able to meet and successfully cope with the senator in what are
known as 'The Lincoln-Douglas debates,' and it may also be doubted whether Presi-
dent Lincoln could have been successful in the mighty work of maintaining the
integrity of the Nation but for the timely support of Senator Douglas."

"No man of his time," writes the author of "Bygone Days," "had so many
personal friends and so many bitter political enemies as Stephen A. Douglas. The
former regarded him almost in the light of a prophet, and under his banner would
have undertaken any crusade it might have entered his head to preach. The latter
. . . went quite to the other extreme, and regarded the inventor of 'Squatter
Sovereignty' in the light of a Judas or Beelzebub, devoid of a single pure motive."

It was Douglas' ambition to become the president of the United States, but it
is to his glory and honor that when the peril of disunion was clearly perceived he
came to the support of his great opponent, and uttered words of patriotic loyalty
to the Union. Himself a defeated candidate, he called on Mr. Lincoln, just after


Fort Sumter had been fired on, and pledged his most earnest and active coopera-
tion toward putting down the rebellion. He sent a telegram to his supporters in
Illinois calling upon them to come forward and help save the Union. "There is no
better illustration," says Carr, "of the potentiality of Douglas with the rank and
file of his party than that presented by the most southern of the Illinois con-
gressional districts, known as 'Egypt,' a district which, in the Presidential election,
had given Douglas nearly twenty thousand majority over Lincoln. It was said
that that district furnished to the Union army more men, in proportion to popula-
tion, than any other district in the United States."


The following report of the last public speech made by Senator Douglas at
the Wigwam in Chicago, where Mr. Lincoln had been nominated for the presi-
dency less than a year before, is here inserted. It is due to the memory of Douglas
to make a record of the sentiments he expressed in such positive terms on that oc-
casion; and the speech itself, delivered a month before his dying day, is an elo-
quent appeal to the people to stand by the Union then threatened with dissolu-
tion. The report is taken from the New York Tribune of June 13th, 1861, and is
as follows:

"Senator Douglas and his wife reached Chicago, 111., on their return from
Washington, on the evening of the 1st day of May, and were met at the depot
by an immense assemblage of citizens of all parties, who insisted on escorting Mr.
Douglas in procession to the great Wigwam, which was already packed with ten
thousand persons. Room having been made for the admission of Mr. Douglas, he
was addressed by Thomas B. Bryan, in behalf of Chicago. Mr. Douglas replied:

"Mr. Chairman: I thank you for the kind terms in which you have been
pleased to welcome me. I thank the Committee and citizens of Chicago for this
grand and imposing reception. I beg you to believe that I will not do you nor
myself the injustice to believe this magnificent ovation is personal homage to my-
self. I rejoice to know that it expresses your devotion to the Constitution, the
Union, and the flag of our country.

"I will not conceal my gratification at the uncontrovertible test this vast audi-
ence presents that what political differences or party questions may have divided
us, yet you all had a conviction that when the country should be in danger, my
loyalty could be relied on. That the present danger is imminent, no man can con-
ceal. If war must come if the bayonet must be used to maintain the Constitu-
tion I can say before God my conscience is clean. I have struggled long for a
peaceful solution of the difficulty. I have not only tendered those States what was
theirs of right, but I have gone to the very extreme of magnanimity.

"The return we receive is war, armies marched upon our capital, obstructions
and dangers to our navigation, letters of marque to invite pirates to prey upon our
commerce, a concerted movement to blot out the United States of America from
the map of the globe. The question is, Are we to maintain the country of our
fathers, or allow it to be stricken down by those who, when they can no longer
govern, threaten to destroy?

"What cause, what excuse do disunionists give us for breaking up the best
Government on which the sun of heaven ever shed its ravs? They are dissatisfied


with the result of a Presidential election. Did they never get beaten before? Are
we to resort to the sword when we get defeated at the ballot-box? I understand it
that the voice of the people expressed in the mode appointed by the Constitution
must command the obedience of every citizen. They assume, on the election of a
particular candidate, that their rights are not safe in the Union. What evidence
do they present of this? I defy any man to show any act on which it is based.
What act has been omitted to be done? I appeal to these assembled thousands
that so far as the constitutional rights of the Southern States, I will say the con-
stitutional rights of slaveholders, are concerned, nothing has been done, and noth-
ing omitted, of which they can complain.

"There has never been a time from the day that Washington was inaugurated
first President of these United States, when the rights of the Southern States stood
firmer under the laws of the land than they do now; there never was a time when
they had not as good a cause for disunion as they have today. What good cause
have they now that has not existed under every Administration?

"If they say the Territorial question now, for the first time, there is no act
of Congress prohibiting slavery anywhere. If it be the non-enforcement of the
laws, the only complaints that I have heard have been of the too vigorous and
faithful fulfillment of the Fugitive Slave Law. Then what reason have they?

"The slavery question is a mere excuse. The election of Lincoln is a mere pre-
text. The present secession movement is the result of an enormous conspiracy
formed more than a year since, formed by leaders in the Southern Confederacy
more than twelve months ago.

"They use the Slavery question as a means to aid the accomplishment of their
ends. They desired the election of a Northern candidate, by a sectional vote, in
order to show that the two sections cannot live together. When the history of the
two years from the Lecompton charter down to the Presidential election shall be
written, it will be shown that the scheme was deliberately made to break up this

"They desired a Northern Republican to be elected by a purely Northern vote,
and then assign this fact as a reason why the sections may not longer live to-
gether. If the disunion candidate in the late Presidential contest had carried the
united South, their scheme was, the Northern candidate successful, to seize the
Capital last spring, and by a united South and divided North hold it. That scheme
was defeated in the defeat of the disunion candidate in several of the Southern

"But this is no time for a detail of causes. The conspiracy is now known.
Armies have been raised, war is levied to accomplish it. There are only two sides
to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There
can be no neutrals in this war; only patriots or traitors.

"Thank God Illinois is not divided on this question. I know they expected to
present a united South against a divided North. They hoped in the Northern States,
party questions would bring civil war between Democrats and Republicans, when
the South would step in with her cohorts, aid one party to conquer the other, and
then make easy prey of the victors. Their scheme was carnage and civil war in
the North.

"There is but one way to defeat this. In Illinois it is being so defeated by


closing up the ranks. War will thus be prevented on our own soil. While there
was a hope of peace I was ready, for any reasonable sacrifice or compromise to
maintain it. But when the question comes of war in the cotton fields of the South
or the corn-fields of Illinois, I say the farther off the better.

"We cannot close our eyes to the sad and solemn fact that war does exist.
The Government must be maintained, its enemies overthrown, and the more stu
pendous our preparations the less the blood shed, and the shorter the struggle. But
we must remember certain restraints on our action even in time of war. We are
a Christian people, and the war must be prosecuted in a manner recognized by
Christian nations.

"We must not invade Constitutional rights. The innocent must not suffer, nor
women and children be the victims. Savages must not be let loose. But while I
sanction no war on the rights of others, I will implore my countrymen not to lay
down their arms until our own rights are recognized.

"The Constitution and its guarantees are our birthright, and I am ready to
enforce that inalienable right to the last extent. We cannot recognize secession.
Recognize it once, and you have not only dissolved government, but you have de-
stroyed social order, upturned the foundations of society. You have inaugurated
anarchy in its worst form, and will shortly experience all the horrors of the French

"Then we have a solemn duty to maintain the Government. The greater our
unanimity the speedier the day of peace. We have prejudices to overcome from
the few short months since of a fierce party contest. Yet these must be allayed.
Let us lay aside all criminations and recriminations as to the origin of these diffi-
culties. When we shall have again a country with the United States flag floating
over it, and respected on every inch of American soil, it will then be time enough
to ask who and what brought all this upon us.

"I have said more than I intended to say. It is a sad task to discuss questions
so fearful as civil war; but sad as it is, bloody and disastrous as I expect it will
be, I express it as my conviction before God, that it is the duty of every American
citizen to rally round the flag of his country.

"I thank you again for this magnificent demonstration. By it you show you
have laid aside party strife. Illinois has a proud position United, firm, deter-
mined never to permit the Government to be destroyed."


"As he stood before that vast assemblage in Chicago," says Carr, "Senator
Douglas was the mightiest and most potential figure in the galaxy of American
statesmen. . . . Here patriotic men of every shade of opinion and of every
political party listened with breathless interest for every word that fell from his
lips, and vied with each other to do him honor. Such enthusiastic greeting, such
rapturous applause, had never been accorded to another public man since the days
of the fathers. Every one who took part in the great demonstration felt that the
Senator's utterances were the expression of the emotions of all the patriotic peo-
ple of the great nation, from ocean to ocean. . . . Patriotic men who then
saw the great Senator, for the last time, recalled in later days the splendors of that
great ovation : and as they realized that he had been withdrawn forever from their


view; and that they would never again see his familiar face and form, they felt
that they had witnessed his transfiguration."

Thereafter the name of Douglas, as well as his glowing words of loyalty, were
fully identified with the Union cause. The names "Douglas brigade," as applied to
a body of Illinois volunteers, "Camp Douglas," of Chicago, famous in the annals
of that period, are evidences of the recognition given by the people to this fact.
A further evidence of the profound respect which the people of Chicago cherish
for Douglas is furnished in the names of a beautiful park and a boulevard in the
city; and a county of this state, as well as many counties in other states, have
been named in his honor. He did not live long to render the invaluable aid which
he could have given throughout the coming struggle, for when he left the scene
of his triumphant ovation, he did so never to return to the public gaze. The strain
upon his physical and mental faculties had ' been too severe, and from the great
hall of the "Wigwam" he was driven to the old Tremont House, which was his
home when in Chicago. In a few days thereafter, he breathed his last, on the
third of June, 1861. His message to his children was in these words: "Tell them
to obey the laws and support the Constitution of the United States," and these
were his last words on earth.


Of Douglas Judge Carter says: "However much we may disagree witli his
position on the slavery question, it is clear he was against slavery and took the
position he did because he believed it was for the best interests of his country.
Perhaps the most remarkable triumph ever seen in Congress was that under Doug-
las' leadership, in opposition to his party and its president, in defeating the Le-
compton constitution which had been fraudulently and forcibly foisted upon the
people of Kansas by the advocates of slavery.

"During the presidential campaign of 1860, when Douglas saw that his own
defeat was certain and that Lincoln was to be elected," continues Carter, "he
abandoned his campaign in the North where his main hope of gaining votes lay,
and started on a speaking tour through the South, hoping against hope that he
could turn the tide of public feeling in that section so that the Southern States
would be satisfied to remain in the Union after Lincoln was elected. At Norfolk,
Virginia, he was asked, If Lincoln should be elected would the Southern States
be justified in seceding from the Union? He replied instantly: 'No: the election
of any man to the presidency in conformity to the Constitution of the United
States would not justify an attempt to dissolve the Union.'

"When Lincoln was elected Douglas threw all of his great influence on the side
of the Union. While asserting that he was still opposed to Lincoln in party mat-
ters he publicly announced that he would assist him in every way possible to pre-
serve the government. He proved this not only by his words but by his actions.
It is well known history that when Lincoln was inaugurated Douglas stood close
by him upon the platform, and when the president could not readily find a place
to put his hat Douglas held it during the inaugural address.

"As soon as Lincoln's family were installed in the White House Mrs. Douglas,
who was one of the society leaders of Washington, called upon Mrs. Lincoln, thus
setting the stamp of social approval on the new administration.


"A few weeks thereafter at the invitation of the Illinois legislature Douglas
visited Springfield and spoke before that body. Some of bis life-long political
opponents stated that it was one of the most powerful speeches that they ever
listened to from the lips of man. Near the close, with the deepest pathos, he
said, 'If war must come, if the bayonet must be used to maintain the constitution,
I can say before God my conscience is clear. I have struggled long for a peaceful
solution of this trouble. I deprecate war, but if it must come I am with my coun-
try and for my country in every contingency and under all circumstances. At all
hazards our government must be maintained, and the shortest pathway to peace

is through the most stupendous preparations for war.' "


Perhaps no two men in our history have oftener been compared than Lincoln
and Douglas. Among these comparisons that of Judge Carter's is one of the most
instructive. "These two men," says he, "were not only dissimilar in their physical
characteristics, but were most unlike in mental attributes. Douglas was shrewd,
keen, analytical, bold and aggressive ; a quick and ready debater, capable of think-
ing as well on his feet as he was after deliberation ; marvelously suggestive and
fertile as to resources. He rarely cited historical precedents except from Ameri-
ican politics. In that field his knowledge was comprehensive and accurate. No-
body knew when he read, yet he could refer to date, page and volume with wonderful
accuracy. He was without wit or humor; intensely practical; in no sense a dreamer
or follower of ideals. As great an authority as Elaine says of him: 'He was a
master of logic. In that peculiar style of debate which in its intensity resembles
a physical combat he had no equal. He spoke with extraordinary readiness; he
used good English, terse, pointed and vigorous.'

"Lincoln, on the contrary, was in a sense a dreamer, a man of ideals, a prose-
poet; slow of thought, not a ready extemporaneous speaker. He was never over-
bearing or intolerant. While he recognized his intellectual ability and never hesitated
to assert himself when necessary, he was usually modest and retiring; honest by
instinct, the logical working of his mind made him necessarily reach the true re-
sult after deliberation and thought; very strong when he was on the right side;
extraordinarily weak when he felt that his side was in the wrong. One of his most
effective weapons in leadership of men was his wonderful power of expressing his
views in clear, terse English, his arguing from analogy and explaining things hard
to understand by maxims, figures of speech and stories.

"His wit and humor, never pointed nor sarcastic, he used always very effect-
ively. He spoke with the most perfect sincerity and simplicity, so that his hearers
always felt that he was deeply interested in the moral bearing of the public ques-
tions he was discussing. He possessed, as perhaps did no other public man of
the country, lucidity, flexibility and simplicity of style. It was because of his
high ideals, his moral qualities, that he had such marvelous influence over the
men of his time and of all time. He was not a great reader of general literature
yet he was always a student. He knew a few books, such as Shakespeare, Burns
and the Bible better than any other public man of his time. From his boyhood
he had been familiar with them. In the files of the Circuit Court of Menard
County, in a case tried in 1847, in which Lincoln was counsel, is found a motion


in the writing of opposing counsel requesting the court to instruct the jury that
the passage from Exodus read by Lincoln to the jury was not the law in the case
on trial. The instruction was given.

"Lincoln's speeches are filled with biblical references; hardly one of his public
utterances or great state papers from the time he was elected president until his
death but has a quotation from the Bible or a reference to the fact that God rules
in the affairs of nations."

"Men who could meet and cope on equal terms with the great lawyers of Illi-
nois of their time as did Lincoln and Douglas," says Carter, "must have been more
than ordinary lawyers. Among the members of that bar were six future United
States Senators, eight future members of Congress, a future Cabinet minister, and
not less than six who were to be judges of the Supreme Court of the State, to say
nothing of many others distinguished in other walks of life."


In the Louisville Journal of December 20th, 1861, as quoted in Putnam's "Re-
bellion Record," the following anecdote of Mrs. Douglas is related. "Very few
people indeed," runs the account, "have been placed in a more trying position and
sacrificed more for the sake of the Union than has Mrs. Douglas. She has persist-
ently refused to entertain the proposition forwarded to her by a special messenger
under a flag of truce from the Governor of North Carolina, asking that the two
sons of the late Senator Douglas be sent South to save their extensive estates in
Mississippi from confiscation. If she refused, a large property would be taken
from the children, and, in her present reduced circumstances, they may thereby
eventually be placed in straitened circumstances. Here, then, was an appeal made
directly to her tender regard for them, which, if she should refuse, would work
disastrously against them in after years.

"But her answer was worthy of herself and of her late distinguished husband.
If the rebels wish to make war upon defenseless children, and take away the all
of little orphan boys, it must be so; but she could not for an instant think of sur-
rendering them to the enemies of their country and of their father. His last words
were, 'Tell them to obey the Constitution and the laws of the country," and Mrs.
Douglas will not make herself the instrument of disobeying his dying injunction.
The children, she says, belong to Illinois, and must remain in the North. Illinois
and the North, we take it, will see to it that they are not sufferers by the devoted-
ness and patriotism of their mother."


The remains of Senator Douglas are in Chicago, and rest in a marble sarcoph-
agus placed within a crypt under a lofty monument of granite. Surmounting the
shaft is a bronze statue of the statesman, the total height to the top of the statue
being ninety-six feet. Upon the sarcophagus is an inscription giving the dates of
his birth and death, and the words of his last message. The monument is situated
on rising ground, overlooking the lake, and is surrounded by an ample lawn space
adjoining the right-of-way of the Illinois Central railroad, at Thirty-fifth street.
It was completed in 1878 at a cost of about one hundred thousand dollars, the
principal share of which having been borne by the state of Illinois.









Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.2) → online text (page 10 of 55)