William Eleazar Barton.

The influence of Illinois in the development of Abraham Lincoln (Volume 2) online

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slaverv- in the Northwest Territory. This case which Lincobi argued



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when he was thirty-two years of age, compelled him to consider slavery
both in its legal and its moral aspects. Such an issue could hardly
have risen, except in Illinois or Indiana or Ohio.*

The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise.

The leader in the repeal of the Missouri Compromise was Stephen
Arnold Douglas, Senator from Illinois, and at that time chairman of the
Senate Committee on Territories. Whether he was the real author of
the measure is hotly disputed. The most careful study of this question
seems to me to be that of Prof. P. Orman Ray, who, after a careful
analysis of the material available, supports the view of Colonel John
A. Parker, in his pamphlet, "The Secret History of the Kansas-
Nebraska Bill", and derives the movement for the repeal to the fac-
tional strife in Missouri between Thomas Hart Benton and David R.
Atchison. Atchison, as Professor Ray believes, was the real author of
the measure; and his conclusions appear to me to be valid. (See The
Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, by P. Orman Ray, Ph.D., Cleve-
land, 1909). He shows that much has been written about the part
which Douglas took, and of his motive in the matter, is not sustained
by adequate evidence, and that some things which Douglas claimed,
as, for instance, that for eight years prior to the repeal, he had stead-
ily advocated it. appear to be unreliable. But conceding, as we may
well concede, the authorship of the repeal to David R. Atchison, and
perhaps also in part to Judge William C. Price, it is Douglas with
whom we have to reckon as the man responsible for the form of its
presentation, for its report from the Committee, and for its adoption
by Congress and discussion by the country, and Douglas was proud
to be known as its responsible author.

And, whatever Douglas' motive at the outset, or even if he had
then no motive except that of the possibility of being removed from
the chairmanship of the Committee on Territories, to make way for
Atchison to introduce the bill, he must ultimately have seen that he
was certain to be held responsible for it, and it was well for him, if he
expected to be a candidate for the Presidency, to use to his advantage
in the Southern States what was certain to be used to his disadvantage
in the States where a strong anti-slavery sentiment existed.

Beyond any reasonable doubt Douglas hoped to gain sufficient
political influence in the slave-holding states to make him President.
In the two sketches of Lincoln's life which he himself prepared,
Abraham Lincoln stated that after his return from Congress in 1848,
he returned to the practice of law with more ardor than he ever had
manifested before, but that the Missouri Compromise recalled him
to political activity. When Abraham Lincoln found himself recalled
to political life by a great moral crisis in the life of the nation, it was
the good fortune of Illinois to be able to furnish to Abraham Lincoln
a foeman worthy of his steel. He did not have to go out of his own
State to meet the national issue. Illinois furnished him an arena of



* Theoretically, such a case might have risen in any one of the five States carved
out of the Northwest Territory, but it would not have been lilcely to rise in Wisconsin
or Michigan, because they were newer and more remote from slave territory.



19

national proportions, lie did not need to go to Missouri or to hlccd-
inj,' Kansas, thouj,'!) he paid an important visit to the latter; he was
able t<^ beard the slavery lion in his political den in his f)\\n State and
tlie State of Houj^las.

An Illinois Foeman Worthy of Lincoln's Steel.

Who can measure the intluence up<»n Lincoln of the fact that
Stephen A. Douglas was in 1854 and still in 1S58 not only a resident
of Illinois but a dominant force in national politics? The joint debate
between these two preat men stanijs out in our national life and occu-
pies a place all its own. The si.i,Mutkant fact of our present puq)osc
is that this contest found both of its notable participants in this State
and the State itself on tiptoe eajjer for the contest between them.

Both Lincoln and Douglas knew that Illinois was not a unit,
and each of them used that fact to ihe utmost to the disadvantage of
the other. Douglas repeatedly charged Lincoln with uttering senti-
ments in Xorthern Illinois which he would not dare to repeat in
^'Pypt; nnd Lincoln succeeded in committing Douglas to the "Free-
port heresy" which ultimately proved his undoing.

Hut Lincoln forced the issue on this platform, that while the
Constitution recognized slavery as existing, and he had no plan or
purpose to interfere with it where it then was, the framers of the
Constitution had clearly understood that slavery was an evil, and it
was a thing to be faced as such. At Galesburg. Lincoln quoted Doug-
las as saying that Douglas did not care whether slaverv was voted up
or voted down ; and he proceeded :

".Tndce Douqlas declares that if any community wants siavory, they have
a riKht to it. He can say that logically, if he .says there is no wronc In
slavery : hut if yoti admit that tliere is a wronn in it. lie cannot logically say
that anybody has a rlpht to do wronp. He insists that, upon the score of
equality, the owners of slaves and the owners of property — or horses and
every other kind of i)roporty — should be alike, and hold them alike in a
new territory. That is perfectly logical if the two species of property are
alike and eqtially founded in rlpht. Rut if yo)i admit that one of them is
wronp, you cannot institute any equality between ripht and wronp.

"N'ow, I confess myself as belonpinp to that class in the cntmtry who
repard slavery as a moral, social rind political evil havinp due regard for
Its actual existence amonp us and the dlfflculties of pettinp rid of It in anv
satisfactory way. and to all the constitutional oblipations which have lH>en
thrown about It: but, neverthele.ss. desire a policy which looks to the pr«»-
venfion of it as a wrong, and look hopefully to tiie time when as a wrong
It may come to an end. He is blowing out the moral lights around ua when
he contends that whoever wants sLives has a right to hold them."

It was thus that Lincoln came to his position, not as an aboli-
tionist, but as one who could say what Lincoln did say with great
deliberation at Springfield on June 17, 1858:

" 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this govern-
ment 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
that it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the
other. Either the opponents of slnvery 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 l>e-
come alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new. north aa well as south."



20

How carefully Lincoln had prepared this paragraph and its
context is shown by the fact that when Douglas made quotations from
it a few months later, Lincoln was able to repeat it word for word,
saying as he did so, that Douglas had repeated it so often that Lincoln
had learned it from him. That, of course, was only an excuse for
knowing it so well that he could repeat it months after the occasion
for which it had been prepared. The fact is, that when Lincoln went
before the convention which on June 17, 1858, nominated him as a
candidate against Douglas for Senator, Lincoln had determined to
force the slavery issue upon moral grounds, indicated by the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise; and the man with whom he had to discuss
that issue was not John C. Calhoun of North Carolina or anv other
statesman from the Southern States, but Stephen A Douglas, of
Illinois.

The Slavery Issue National and Moral.

Considered in their intellectual aspects, it is hard to decide which
to admire the more, the speeches of Lincoln or those of Douglas.
But what we are to remember is that Lincoln deliberately forced the
consideration of slavery in its ethical aspects. Douglas set forth
strongly his claim for "squatter sovereignty." He maintained that the
founders of the republic never intended that there should be uniform-
ity in matters of local concern, but that there should be large liberty
in each State to decide its own policy in matters within its own bound-
aries. The slavery issue thus was an issue for each State to determine
in its own way. He insisted that to hold this principle was not to
commit one's self to the pro-slavery view ; he did not care, so far as
this principle was concerned, whether slavery was voted up or voted
down, but he did care for the sacred right of each State to work out
its own salvation in matters of its own concern.

But what Lincoln said at the outset, he reiterated in nearly every
speech, and stated thus in the debate at Ouincy:

"The difference of opinion, reduced to its lowest terms, is no other than
the difference between the men who thinlt slavery a wrong, and those who do
not think it a wrong. 'The Republican party think it wrong; we think it is
a moral, a social, a political wrong. We think it a wrong not confining itself
to the persons or the states where it exists, but that it is a wrong in its
tendency, to say the least, that extends itself to the existence of the whole
nation. Because we think it wrong, we propose a course of policy that shall
deal with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any other wrong, in so far
as we can prevent its growing any larger, and so deal with it that in the
run of time there may be some promise of an end to it. We have a due
regard to the actual presence of it amongst us, and the difficulties of getting
rid of it in any satisfactory way, and all the constitutional obligations thrown
about it."

It was no political accident that drove Lincoln to this position.
The Kansas-Nebraska bill and the Dred Scot decision had practically
nationalized slavery. This he afifirmed in his speech in Springfield,
June 17, 1858, and in that speech declared that a house divided against
itself could not stand. He knew what answer Senator Douglas would
make. There was nothing in the Chicago speech of Douglas on July



Jl

9, 1858, that surprised him, and Lincoln was present and heard it.
Douglas quoted I.incoln's "house divided against itself" paragraph,
and commented.

"In other words, Mr. Lincolu OBserts, as a fundaniontal principle of this
Kovornment. that there nnist Xte uniformity in the local laws and dumotillc
Institutions of each and all the stateH of the Union.

"Now. my friends. I mu.^i say to you frankly, that I take bold, unqunlifleJ
issue with hlni upon that prlneiitle. I assert that it is neither desirable nor
possible that there should be uniformity in the loral institutions and domestic
regulations of the differont states of the Union. The franuTs of our Kovern-
ment never conttmidaled uniformity in its internal conrcrns. .Mr. Lincoln
has totally misapprehended the great principles uix>n which our governmeDt
rests."

Lincoln did not misapprehend. He knew just what he was doing,
ind he knew why he was doing it. Ho was determined to force the
light with Douglas on these two grounds, that the slavery issue was
national. an<l that it was fundamentally moral.

Illinois is not the only State in which Lincoln might have form-
ulated or forced that issue : but Illinois was the State in which, above
all other States, that issue could be squarely joined between himself
and the advocate of "squatter sovereignty," Stephen A. Douglas.
The event made Douglas a Senator again, and two years later it
made Lincoln President.

Illinois the Forum for Lincoln's Greatest Speeches.

Illinois offered to Lincoln a forum for the deliver)' of very nearly
all his greatest speeches up to the time of his departure for his Inaug-
ural. If we except only the Cooper Union address, virtually all the
other of Lincoln's outstanfling speeches were delivered in his own
State, and it was the best possible place for their delivery. The
Tlouse-divided-against-itself" speech has already been referred to.
His "Lost Speech" at P.loomington, May 20, 1856. could not so well
have been delivered in any other State convention. His Peoria speech
of October 16, 1854, might have been ignored if delivered in another
^tate, but in Illinois, it virtually made certain the contest four years
later with Douglas.

Illinois Gave Lincoln Most of His Offices.

Illinois gave to Lincoln every office that he ever held, except
that of the Presidency and the postmastership of Xcw Salem. Lvcn
in those important positions Illinois exerted an influence far from
negligible. When he was a candidate for the Presidency he recor<led
in a sketch of his life written with his own hand that his election as
captain of his company in the P.lack Hawk war gave him at the time
more satisfaction than any subsequent honor. He also recorded that
his defeat in 1832 when he was a candidate for the Legislature was
the only defeat he ever suffered at the hands of the people. The
pe(»plc who thus voted for him whenever they had opporttmity were.
down to 1860. wholly Illinois people. Kven in the election of 1832
when he was defeated, that part of Illinois that knew him, the part



22

adjacent to and inclusive of New Salem, voted overwhelmingly in
his favor. A Legislature declined in 1858 to make him Senator; a
President in 1848 declined to make him Land Commissioner, but the
people of Illinois gave him every office which he ever asked of them.

Illinois Fence Rails and Their Various Uses.

Illinois did something for Lincoln worth remembering in pre-
serving some of his fence-rails, and the memory of his making them.
He made them in 1830, and the State Republican Convention of 1860
was held in Decatur, only ten miles away from where those rails still
formed some part of a fence. Thither came Lincoln, to attend the
convention that on May 9 and 10, 1860, was to elect delegates to the
National Republican Convention, to be held in Chicago, scarcely a
week later. May 16. The northern part of the State was still strongly
for Seward, though the Chicago Tribune had already come out
squarely for Lincoln. But the Decatur Convention was not long
divided. Richard J. Oglesby and old John Hanks had found two of the
old rails, and at the opportune moment they were brought into the
Convention, with a reminder that Lincoln was "the rail candidate."
So he proved to be ; and the Seward boom fell flat in Illinois. From
Decatur the Lincoln hosts went almost directly to Chicago, carrying
with them the fresh enthusiasm of their Decatur experience.

Illinois the Scene of the Convention that Nominated Lincoln.

Finally, Illinois offered to Lincoln a place for the National Re-
publican convention of 1860. In the boisterous young city by the lake,
within the borders of the very State where Lincoln had split his rails,
convened the delegates from all the States where there was organized
opposition to the extension of slavery. We do not know what would
have happened if the Republican Convention had been held in some
other city where as many men were shouting for Seward as in Chi-
cago were shouting for Lincoln. We do know that the galleries were
potent then and even now not wholly lacking in their power to influ-
ence a body of delegates. It was Lincoln's own State that furnished
the theater for that dramatic act which made him President of the
nation.

But the theater was not the whole play. Illinois was geographic-
ally and politically even then a State whose support was of vast impor-
tance to the ticket of the new political party. Illinois did not dictate the
nomination ; that was done by the opponents of Seward, after failure to
discover another candidate who could carry the convention with good
prospect also of carrying the election ; but the influence of Illinois in
both these matters was important ; and Illinois was by that time united
in support of Lincoln. And, when all else has been said, it is not to
be forgotten that Illinois furnished a large fraction of the shouting.

Lincoln's Farewell and Return to Illinois.

The time came for him to say farewell to his own Illinois. He
said it first to his aged step-mother, who remembered with loving
heart how he had been dear to her as her own son, and had never



23

spoken to her an unkind word. He sai<l it to his old nciKhljor^, as he
^tood on ihc rear platform of the train with the wet eyes asking them to
commend him to ("n)<l in their prayers. And then he wejit away.

He came not back, save only the sacred memory of him, and
the holy pride with which he was held to lasting honor, and the dust
that once had enshrined his great soul. Tims vvt, ,t.- Wilt Wln'tn, mi
in the spring of 1865 :

"When lilacs last In the door-yard bloomed.

And the great star early drooped in the western sky In the niKht,

I mourned, and yet shall mourn with ever returning spring.

ever-roturnln^' sprlnp! trinity sure to me you hrlnR;
Lilacs blooiniuK perennial, and drooping star In the weal,
And thought of him I love.

Over the breast of the spring, the land anild cities,

Amid lanes and throuph old woods (where lately the violets peeped from

the ground, spotting the gray debris: )
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes — passing the endless

grass;
Passing the yellow-speared wheat, every grain from Its shroud In the

(lark-brown fields uprising;
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink In the orchards;
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a cofBn.

Coflln that passes through lanes and streets.

Through day and night, with the great cloud darkening the land.
With the pomp of the Inlooped flags, with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves, as of crape-veiled women

standing.
With processions long and winding, and the flambeaus of the night.
With the countless torches lit — with the silent sea of faces and the un-
bared heads.
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the somber faces.
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong

and solemn ;
With all the mournful voices of the dirges, poured around the cofl5n,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organ — where amid these you

journey.
With the tolling, tolling, bells' perpetual clang;
Here! Coffin that slowly passes,

1 give you my sprig of lilacs!"

The long journey ended. The lilacs bloomed and drooped. The
gates of Oak Ridge opened and closed. Abraham Lincoln was at
home again, in his own Illinois.*

As the body of Lincoln returned to the soil of his own State,
Edna Dean Proctor, then a young woman, wrote a noble poem, a copy
of which in her own h.uidwriting hangs in the tomb of Lincoln, from
which I quote a few lines :



•AlTdlinin I.lnriiln wno n'<'<nH«liint.«l nn (Jorwl Frl'l.Tv iilclil. .\r>rll 1-4. 1SC,.%. nnci
died thf followInK mnrnlmt. Hl<i fnniTnl wii« hold from tho Whlti« lloniip nt noon



on WrdnoBdnr. * ■ -" '" Ttio hodv ' '• »«••''•-•• -• - -i- i'-<,i~. -Tiornlnc.

kprll 21. ntifl V wnr of ~ <• York.

AlbaDr, ItufTnlo. Columbu- '•' from



Chicago wn« ni ^ ^ p. ni. on i !• . • ^ m.> » •.> ...- , .. ..hJ next

mornlnK. Thr Sprlngflold funoral took pUrr on Thiir«rtn.T. May 4. I.ate od the sfter-
Doon of thnt day. hU body wis laid to rent In Oak Rldit«' romoteiT.



24

"Now. must the storied Potomac

Honors forever divide;
Now to the Sangamon fameless

Give of its century's pride;
Sangamon, stream of the prairies,

Placidly westward that flows.
Far in whose city of silence

Calm he has sought his repose.

"Not for thy sheaves nor savannas

Crown we thee, proud Illinois!
Here in his grave is thy grandeur,

Born of his sorrow thy joy.
Only the tomb by Mount Zion

Hewn for the Lord do we hold
Dearer than his in thy prairies,

Girdled with harvests of gold."

Is Illinois Capable of Producing More Lincolns.^

Times have changed. We no longer have or need those same
conditions, but we need men of the same spirit. Is Illinois adapted to
produce men nov^ of the Lincoln type? We have sung tonight our
State song vi^hich has some merit, and some undeniably fine lines. I
could wish that it had more idealism. It is not enough that we have
rivers gently flowing or prairies verdant growing and straight roads
leading along section lines to Chicago, nor that the breezes murmur
the musical name of our State. What does that name mean? To the
Indians it meant, 'We are men.' It was a proud boast of the manhood
of the State. Are we producing manhood like Lincoln's? I have not
undertaken to write a new State song, but I have written a little
rhymed sermon, and that is no apology :

Not thy farms with cattle teeming,

Illinois, Illinois,
Nor thy factories smoking, steaming,

Illinois, Illinois,
Nor thy railroads hauling freight,
Made thee, or can make thee great.
Righteous manhood builds a State,

Illinois.

By thy rivers gently flowing,

Illinois, Illinois,
Are there any great men growing,

Illinois, Illinois?
Long before the white man's ken.
Proud thy boast, "My sons are men";
This thy glory now as then,

Illinois.

Lincoln's ashes thou dost cherish,

Illinois, Illinois,
Guard his virtues, lest they perish,

Illinois, Illinois,
Justice, righteousness and skill.
Honor, faith and strong good will.
These thy guiding beacons still,

Illinois.



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Online LibraryWilliam Eleazar BartonThe influence of Illinois in the development of Abraham Lincoln (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 3)