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Title: Stephen A. Douglas - A Study in American Politics
Author: Johnson, Allen, 1870-1931
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stephen A. Douglas - A Study in American Politics" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

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|              Transcriber's Note:                              |
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|Original spellings and inconsistent hyphenation have been kept,|
|including the earlier spelling variant Douglass.               |
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New York


_All rights reserved_

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Set up and electrotyped. Published February 1908


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whose wisdom and kindliness have inspired
a generation of students


To describe the career of a man who is now chiefly remembered as the
rival of Abraham Lincoln, must seem to many minds a superfluous, if
not invidious, undertaking. The present generation is prone to forget
that when the rivals met in joint debate fifty years ago, on the
prairies of Illinois, it was Senator Douglas, and not Mr. Lincoln, who
was the cynosure of all observing eyes. Time has steadily lessened the
prestige of the great Democratic leader, and just as steadily enhanced
the fame of his Republican opponent.

The following pages have been written, not as a vindication, but as an
interpretation of a personality whose life spans the controversial
epoch before the Civil War. It is due to the chance reader to state
that the writer was born in a New England home, and bred in an
anti-slavery atmosphere where the political creed of Douglas could not
thrive. If this book reveals a somewhat less sectional outlook than
this personal allusion suggests, the credit must be given to those
generous friends in the great Middle West, who have helped the writer
to interpret the spirit of that region which gave both Douglas and
Lincoln to the nation.

The material for this study has been brought together from many
sources. Through the kindness of Mrs. James W. Patton of Springfield,
Illinois, I have had access to a valuable collection of letters
written by Douglas to her father, Charles H. Lanphier, Esq., editor of
the Illinois _State Register_. Judge Robert M. Douglas of North
Carolina has permitted me to use an autobiographical sketch of his
father, as well as other papers in the possession of the family. Among
those who have lightened my labors, either by copies of letters penned
by Douglas or by personal recollections, I would mention with
particular gratitude the late Mrs. L.K. Lippincott ("Grace
Greenwood"); Mr. J.H. Roberts and Stephen A. Douglas, Esq. of Chicago;
Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller and the late Hon. Robert E. Hitt of
Washington. With his wonted generosity, Mr. James F. Rhodes has given
me the benefit of his wide acquaintance with the newspapers of the
period, which have been an invaluable aid in the interpretation of
Douglas's career. Finally, by personal acquaintance and conversation
with men who knew him, I have endeavored to catch the spirit of those
who made up the great mass of his constituents.

Brunswick, Maine,

November, 1907.




    THE RISE OF THE POLITICIAN                    18

    LAW AND POLITICS                              51


    MANIFEST DESTINY                              84

    WAR AND POLITICS                             109

    THE MEXICAN CESSION                          127


    SENATOR AND CONSTITUENCY                     145

    MEASURES OF ADJUSTMENT                       166

    YOUNG AMERICA                                191

    THE KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT                      220

    BLACK REPUBLICANISM                          260



    THE PERSONAL EQUATION                        309

    THE REVOLT OF DOUGLAS                        324

    THE JOINT DEBATES WITH LINCOLN               348

    THE AFTERMATH                                393

    THE CAMPAIGN OF 1860                         412


    THE SUMMONS                                  475





The dramatic moments in the colonizing of coastal New England have
passed into song, story, and sober chronicle; but the farther
migration of the English people, from tide-water to interior, has been
too prosaic a theme for poets and too diverse a movement for
historians. Yet when all the factors in our national history shall be
given their full value, none will seem more potent than the great
racial drift from the New England frontier into the heart of the
continent. The New Englanders who formed a broad belt from Vermont and
New York across the Northwest to Kansas, were a social and political
force of incalculable power, in the era which ended with the Civil
War. The New Englander of the Middle West, however, ceased to be
altogether a Yankee. The lake and prairie plains bred a spirit which
contrasted strongly with the smug provincialism of rock-ribbed and
sterile New England. The exultation born of wide, unbroken, horizon
lines and broad, teeming, prairie landscapes, found expression in the
often-quoted saying, "Vermont is the most glorious spot on the face of
this globe for a man to be born in, _provided_ he emigrates when he is
very young." The career of Stephen Arnold Douglas is intelligible only
as it is viewed against the background of a New England boyhood, a
young manhood passed on the prairies of Illinois, and a wedded life
pervaded by the gentle culture of Southern womanhood.

In America, observed De Tocqueville two generations ago, democracy
disposes every man to forget his ancestors. When the Hon. Stephen A.
Douglas was once asked to prepare an account of his career for a
biographical history of Congress, he chose to omit all but the barest
reference to his forefathers.[1] Possibly he preferred to leave the
family tree naked, that his unaided rise to eminence might the more
impress the chance reader. Yet the records of the Douglass family are
not uninteresting.[2] The first of the name to cross the ocean was
William Douglass, who was born in Scotland and who wedded Mary Ann,
daughter of Thomas Marble of Northampton. Just when this couple left
Old England is not known, but the birth of a son is recorded in
Boston, in the year 1645. Soon after this event they removed to New
London, preferring, it would seem, to try their luck in an outlying
settlement, for this region was part of the Pequot country. Somewhat
more than a hundred years later, Benajah Douglass, a descendant of
this pair and grandfather of the subject of this sketch, pushed still
farther into the interior, and settled in Rensselaer County, in the
province of New York. The marriage of Benajah Douglass to Martha
Arnold, a descendant of Governor William Arnold of Rhode Island, has
an interest for those who are disposed to find Celtic qualities in the
grandson, for the Arnolds were of Welsh stock, and may be supposed to
have revived the strain in the Douglass blood.

Tradition has made Benajah Douglass a soldier in the war of the
Revolution, but authentic records go no farther back than the year
1795, when he removed with his family to Brandon, Vermont. There he
purchased a farm of about four hundred acres, which he must have
cultivated with some degree of skill, since it seems to have yielded
an ample competency. He is described as a man of genial, buoyant
disposition, with much self-confidence. He was five times chosen
selectman of Brandon; and five times he was elected to represent the
town in the General Assembly. The physical qualities of the grandson
may well have been a family inheritance, since of Benajah we read that
he was of medium height, with large head and body, short neck, and
short limbs.[3]

The portrait of Benajah's son is far less distinct. He was a graduate
of Middlebury College and a physician by profession. He married Sally
Fisk, the daughter of a well-to-do farmer in Brandon, by whom he had
two children, the younger of whom was Stephen Arnold Douglass, born
April 23, 1813. The promising career of the young doctor was cut short
by a sudden stroke, which overtook him as he held his infant son in
his arms. The plain, little one-and-a-half story house, in which the
boy first saw the light, suggests that the young physician had been
unable to provide for more than the bare necessities of his family.[4]

Soon after the death of Dr. Douglass, his widow removed to the farm
which she and her unmarried brother had inherited from her father. The
children grew to love this bachelor uncle with almost filial
affection. Too young to take thought for the morrow, they led the
wholesome, natural life of country children. Stephen went to the
district school on the Brandon turnpike, and had no reason to bemoan
the fate which left him largely dependent upon his uncle's generosity.
An old school-mate recalls young Douglass through the haze of years,
as a robust, healthy boy, with generous instincts though tenacious of
his rights.[5] After school hours work and play alternated. The
regular farm chores were not the least part in the youngster's
education; he learned to be industrious and not to despise honest

This bare outline of a commonplace boyhood must be filled in with many
details drawn from environment. Stephen fell heir to a wealth of
inspiring local traditions. The fresh mountain breezes had also once
blown full upon the anxious faces of heroes and patriots; the quiet
valleys had once echoed with the noise of battle; this land of the
Green Mountains was the Wilderness of colonial days, the frontier for
restless New Englanders, where with good axe and stout heart they had
carved their home plots out of the virgin forest. Many a legend of
adventure, of border warfare, and of personal heroism, was still
current among the Green Mountain folk. Where was the Vermont lad who
did not fight over again the battles of Bennington, Ticonderoga, and

Other influences were scarcely less formative in the life of the
growing boy. Vermont was also the land of the town meeting. Whatever
may be said of the efficiency of town government, it was and is a
school of democracy. In Vermont it was the natural political
expression of social forces. How else, indeed, could the general will
find fit expression, except through the attrition of many minds? And
who could know better the needs of the community than the commonalty?
Not that men reasoned about the philosophy of their political
institutions: they simply accepted them. And young Douglass grew up in
an atmosphere friendly to local self-government of an extreme type.

Stephen was nearing his fourteenth birthday, when an event occurred
which interrupted the even current of his life. His uncle, who was
commonly regarded as a confirmed old bachelor, confounded the village
gossips by bringing home a young bride. The birth of a son and heir
was the nephew's undoing. While the uncle regarded Stephen with
undiminished affection, he was now much more emphatically _in loco
parentis_. An indefinable something had come between them. The subtle
change in relationship was brought home to both when Stephen proposed
that he should go to the academy in Brandon, to prepare for college.
That he was to go to college, he seems to have taken for granted.
There was a moment of embarrassment, and then the uncle told the lad,
frankly but kindly, that he could not provide for his further
education. With considerable show of affection, he advised him to give
up the notion of going to college and to remain on the farm, where he
would have an assured competence. In after years the grown man related
this incident with a tinge of bitterness, averring that there had been
an understanding in the family that he was to attend college.[7]
Momentary disappointment he may have felt, to be sure, but he could
hardly have been led to believe that he could draw indefinitely upon
his uncle's bounty.

Piqued and somewhat resentful, Stephen made up his mind to live no
longer under his uncle's roof. He would show his spirit by proving
that he was abundantly able to take care of himself. Much against the
wishes of his mother, who knew him to be mastered by a boyish whim, he
apprenticed himself to Nahum Parker, a cabinet-maker in Middlebury.[8]
He put on his apron, went to work sawing table legs from two-inch
planks, and, delighted with the novelty of the occupation and
exhilarated by his newly found sense of freedom, believed himself on
the highway to happiness and prosperity. He found plenty of companions
with whom he spent his idle hours, young fellows who had a taste for
politics and who rapidly kindled in the newcomer a consuming
admiration for Andrew Jackson. He now began to read with avidity such
political works as came to hand. Discussion with his new friends and
with his employer, who was an ardent supporter of Adams and Clay,
whetted his appetite for more reading and study. In after years he was
wont to say that these were the happiest days of his life.[9]

Toward the end of the year, he became dissatisfied with his employer
because he was forced to perform "some menial services in the
house."[10] He wished his employer to know that he was not a household
servant, but an apprentice. Further difficulties arose, which
terminated his apprenticeship in Middlebury. Returning to Brandon, he
entered the shop of Deacon Caleb Knowlton, also a cabinet-maker; but
in less than a year he quit this employer on the plea of
ill-health.[11] It is quite likely that the confinement and severe
manual labor may have overtaxed the strength of the growing boy; but
it is equally clear that he had lost his taste for cabinet work. He
never again expressed a wish to follow a trade. He again took up his
abode with his mother; and, the means now coming to hand from some
source, he enrolled as a student in Brandon Academy, with the avowed
purpose of preparing for a professional career.[12] It was a wise
choice. Vermont may have lost a skilled handworker--there are those
who vouch for the excellence of his handiwork[13]--but the Union
gained a joiner of first-rate ability.

Wedding bells rang in another change in his fortunes. The marriage of
his sister to a young New Yorker from Ontario County, was followed by
the marriage of his mother to the father, Gehazi Granger. Both couples
took up their residence on the Granger estate, and thither also went
Stephen, with perhaps a sense of loneliness in his boyish heart.[14]
He was then but seventeen. This removal to New York State proved to be
his first step along a path which Vermonters were wearing toward the

Happily, his academic course was not long interrupted by this
migration, for Canandaigua Academy, which offered unusual advantages,
was within easy reach from his new home. Under the wise instruction of
Professor Henry Howe, he began the study of Latin and Greek; and by
his own account made "considerable improvement," though there is
little evidence in his later life of any acquaintance with the
classics. He took an active part in the doings of the literary
societies of the academy, distinguishing himself by his readiness in
debate. His Democratic proclivities were still strong; and he became
an ardent defender of Democracy against the rising tide of
Anti-Masonry, which was threatening to sweep New York from its
political moorings. Tradition says that young Douglass mingled much
with local politicians, learning not a little about the arts and
devices by which the Albany Regency controlled the Democratic
organization in the State. In this school of practical politics he was
beyond a peradventure an apt pupil.

A characteristic story is told of Douglass during these school days at
Canandaigua.[15] A youngster who occupied a particularly desirable
seat at table had been ousted by another lad, who claimed a better
right to the place. Some one suggested that the claimants should have
the case argued by counsel before a board of arbitration. The
dispossessed boy lost his case, because of the superior skill with
which Douglass presented the claims of his client. "It was the first
assertion of the doctrine of squatter sovereignty," said the defeated
claimant, recalling the incident years afterward, when both he and
Douglas were in politics.

Douglass was now maturing rapidly. His ideals were clearer; his native
tastes more pronounced. It is not improbable that already he looked
forward to politics as a career. At all events he took the proximate
step toward that goal by beginning the study of law in the office of
local attorneys, at the same time continuing his studies begun in the
academy. What marked him off from his comrades even at this period was
his lively acquisitiveness. He seemed to learn quite as much by
indirection as by persevering application to books.[16]

In the spring of 1833, the same unrest that sent the first Douglass
across the sea to the new world, seized the young man. Against the
remonstrances of his mother and his relatives, he started for the
great West which then spelled opportunity to so many young men. He was
only twenty years old, and he had not yet finished his academic
course; but with the impatience of ambition he was reluctant to spend
four more years in study before he could gain admission to the bar. In
the newer States of the West conditions were easier. Moreover, he was
no longer willing to be a burden to his mother, whose resources were
limited. And so, with purposes only half formed and with only enough
money for his immediate needs, he began, not so much a journey, as a
drift in a westerly direction, for he had no particular destination in

After a short stay in Buffalo and a visit to Niagara Falls and the
battle ground of Chippewa, the boy took a steamboat to Cleveland,
where happily he found a friend in Sherlock J. Andrews, Esquire, a
successful attorney and a man of kindly impulses. Finding the city
attractive and the requirements for the Ohio bar less rigorous,
Douglass determined to drop anchor in this pleasant port. Mr. Andrews
encouraged him in this purpose, offering the use of his office and
law library. In a single year Douglass hoped to gain admission to the
bar. With characteristic energy, he began his studies. Fate ruled,
however, that his career should not be linked with the Western
Reserve. Within a few days he was prostrated by that foe which then
lurked in the marshes and lowlands of the West--foe more dreaded than
the redman--malarial typhoid. For four weary months he kept his bed,
hovering between life and death, until the heat of summer was spent
and the first frosts of October came to revive him. Urgent appeals now
came to him to return home; but pride kept him from yielding. After
paying all his bills, he still had forty dollars left. He resolved to
push on farther into the interior.[18]

He was far from well when he took the canal boat from Cleveland to
Portsmouth on the Ohio river; but he was now in a reckless and
adventurous mood. He would test his luck by pressing on to Cincinnati.
He had no well-defined purpose: he was in a listless mood, which was
no doubt partly the result of physical exhaustion. From Cincinnati he
drifted on to Louisville, and then to St. Louis. His small funds were
now almost all spent. He must soon find occupation or starve. His
first endeavor was to find a law office where he could earn enough by
copying and other work to pay his expenses while he continued his law
studies. No such opening fell in his way and he had no letters of
introduction here to smooth his path. He was now convinced that he
must seek some small country town. Hearing that Jacksonville,
Illinois, was a thriving settlement, he resolved to try his luck in
this quarter. With much the same desperation with which a gambler
plays his last stake, he took passage on a river boat up the Illinois,
and set foot upon the soil of the great prairie State.[19]

A primitive stage coach plied between the river and Jacksonville. Too
fatigued to walk the intervening distance, Douglass mounted the
lumbering vehicle and ruefully paid his fare. From this point of
vantage he took in the prairie landscape. Morgan County was then but
sparsely populated. Timber fringed the creeks and the river bottoms,
while the prairie grass grew rank over soil of unsuspected fertility.
Most dwellings were rude structures made of rough-hewn logs and
designed as makeshifts. Wildcats and wolves prowled through the timber
lands in winter, and game of all sorts abounded.[20] As the stage
swung lazily along, the lad had ample time to let the first impression
of the prairie landscape sink deep. In the timber, the trees were
festooned with bitter-sweet and with vines bearing wild grapes; in the
open country, nothing but unmeasured stretches of waving grass caught
the eye.[21] To one born and bred among the hills, this broad horizon
and unbroken landscape must have been a revelation. Weak as he was,
Douglass drew in the fresh autumnal air with zest, and unconsciously
borrowed from the face of nature a sense of unbounded capacity. Years
afterward, when he was famous, he testified, "I found my mind
liberalized and my opinions enlarged, when I got on these broad
prairies, with only the heavens to bound my vision, instead of having
them circumscribed by the little ridges that surrounded the valley
where I was born."[22] But of all this he was unconscious, when he
alighted from the stage in Jacksonville. He was simply a wayworn lad,
without a friend in the town and with only one dollar and twenty-five
cents in his pocket.[23]

Jacksonville was then hardly more than a crowded village of log cabins
on the outposts of civilized Illinois.[24] Comfort was not among the
first concerns of those who had come to subdue the wilderness. Comfort
implied leisure to enjoy, and leisure was like Heaven,--to be attained
only after a wearisome earthly pilgrimage. Jacksonville had been
scourged by the cholera during the summer; and those who had escaped
the disease had fled the town for fear of it.[25] By this time,
however, the epidemic had spent itself, and the refugees had returned.
All told, the town had a population of about one thousand souls, among
whom were no less than eleven lawyers, or at least those who called
themselves such.[26]

A day's lodging at the Tavern ate up the remainder of the wanderer's
funds, so that he was forced to sell a few school books that he had
brought with him. Meanwhile he left no stone unturned to find
employment to his liking. One of his first acquaintances was Murray
McConnell, a lawyer, who advised him to go to Pekin, farther up the
Illinois River, and open a law office. The young man replied that he
had no license to practice law and no law books. He was assured that
a license was a matter of no consequence, since anyone could practice
before a justice of the peace, and he could procure one at his
leisure. As for books, McConnell, with true Western generosity,
offered to loan such as would be of immediate use. So again Douglass
took up his travels. At Meredosia, the nearest landing on the river,
he waited a week for the boat upstream. There was no other available
route to Pekin. Then came the exasperating intelligence, that the only
boat which plied between these points had blown up at Alton. After
settling accounts with the tavern-keeper, he found that he had but
fifty cents left.[27]

There was now but one thing to do, since hard manual labor was out of
the question: he would teach school. But where? Meredosia was a
forlorn, thriftless place, and he had no money to travel. Fortunately,
a kind-hearted farmer befriended him, lodging him at his house over
night and taking him next morning to Exeter, where there was a
prospect of securing a school. Disappointment again awaited him; but
Winchester, ten miles away, was said to need a teacher. Taking his
coat on his arm--he had left his trunk at Meredosia--he set off on
foot for Winchester.[28]

Accident, happily turned to his profit, served to introduce him to the
townspeople of Winchester. The morning after his arrival, he found a
crowd in the public square and learned that an auction sale of
personal effects was about to take place. Everyone from the
administrator of the estate to the village idler, was eager for the
sale to begin. But a clerk to keep record of the sales and to draw the
notes was wanting. The eye of the administrator fell upon Douglass;
something in the youth's appearance gave assurance that he could
"cipher.". The impatient bystanders "'lowed that he might do," so he
was given a trial. Douglass proved fully equal to the task, and in two
days was in possession of five dollars for his pains.[29]

Through the good will of the village storekeeper, who also hailed from
Vermont, Douglass was presented to several citizens who wished to see
a school opened in town; and by the first Monday in December he had a
subscription list of forty scholars, each of whom paid three dollars
for three months' tuition.[30] Luck was now coming his way. He found
lodgings under the roof of this same friendly compatriot, the village
storekeeper, who gave him the use of a small room adjoining the
store-room.[31] Here Douglass spent his evenings, devoting some hours
to his law books and perhaps more to comfortable chats with his host
and talkative neighbors around the stove. For diversion he had the
weekly meetings of the Lyceum, which had just been formed.[32] He owed
much to this institution, for the the debates and discussions gave him
a chance to convert the traditional leadership which fell to him as
village schoolmaster, into a real leadership of talent and ready wit.
In this Lyceum he made his first political speech, defending Andrew
Jackson and his attack upon the Bank against Josiah Lamborn, a lawyer
from Jacksonville.[33] For a young man he proved himself astonishingly
well-informed. If the chronology of his autobiography may be accepted,
he had already read the debates in the Constitutional Convention of
1787, the _Federalist_, the works of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson,
and the recent debates in Congress.

Even while he was teaching school, Douglass found time to practice law
in a modest way before the justices of the peace; and when the first
of March came, he closed the schoolhouse door on his career as
pedagogue. He at once repaired to Jacksonville and presented himself
before a justice of the Supreme Court for license to practice law.
After a short examination, which could not have been very searching,
he was duly admitted to the bar of Illinois. He still lacked a month
of being twenty-one years of age.[34] Measured by the standard of
older communities in the East, he knew little law; but there were few
cases in these Western courts which required much more than
common-sense, ready speech, and acquaintance with legal procedure.
_Stare decisis_ was a maxim that did not trouble the average lawyer,
for there were few decisions to stand upon.[35] Besides, experience
would make good any deficiencies of preparation.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 1: There can be little doubt that he supplied the data for
the sketch in Wheeler's Biographical and Political History of

[Footnote 2: See Transactions of the Illinois State Historical
Society, 1901, pp. 113-114.]

[Footnote 3: Vermont Historical Gazetteer, III, p. 457.]

[Footnote 4: Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society,
1901, p. 115.]

[Footnote 5: Mr. B.F. Field in the _Vermonter_, January, 1897.]

[Footnote 6: For many facts relating to Douglas's life, I am indebted
to an unpublished autobiographical sketch in the possession of his
son, Judge R.M. Douglas, of Greensboro, North Carolina.]

[Footnote 7: Wheeler, Biographical History of Congress, p. 61; also
MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 8: Troy _Whig_, July 6, 1860.]

[Footnote 9: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 10: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 11: MS. Autobiography; see Wheeler, Biographical History,
p. 62.]

[Footnote 12: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 13: _Vermonter_, January, 1897.]

[Footnote 14: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 15: This story was repeated to me by Judge Douglas, on the
authority, I believe, of Senator Lapham of New York.]

[Footnote 16: This is the impression of all who knew him personally,
then and afterward. See Arnold, Reminiscences of the Illinois Bar.]

[Footnote 17: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 18: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 19: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 20: Kirby, Sketch of Joseph Duncan in Fergus Historical
Series No. 29; also Historic Morgan, p. 60.]

[Footnote 21: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 22: Speech at Jonesboro, in the debate with Lincoln, Sept.
15, 1858.]

[Footnote 23: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 24: Kirby, Joseph Duncan.]

[Footnote 25: James S. Anderson in Historic Morgan.]

[Footnote 26: Peck, _Gazetteer of Illinois_, 1834.]

[Footnote 27: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 28: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 29: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 30: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 31: Letter of E.G. Miner, January, 1877, in Proceedings of
the Illinois Association of Sons of Vermont.]

[Footnote 32: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 33: _Ibid._; MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 34: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 35: Hon. J.C. Conkling in Fergus Historical Series,
No. 22.]



The young attorney who opened a law office in the Court House at
Jacksonville, bore little resemblance to the forlorn lad who had
vainly sought a livelihood there some months earlier. The winter winds
of the prairies, so far from racking the frame of the convalescent,
had braced and toned his whole system. When spring came, he was in the
best of health and full of animal spirits. He entered upon his new
life with zest. Here was a people after his own heart; a generous,
wholesome, optimistic folk. He opened his heart to them, and, of
course, hospitable doors opened to him. He took society as he found
it, rude perhaps, but genuine. With plenty of leisure at command, he
mingled freely with young people of his own age; he joined the
boisterous young fellows in their village sports; he danced with the
maidens; and he did not forget to cultivate the good graces of their
elders. Mothers liked his animation and ready gallantry; fathers found
him equally responsive on more serious matters of conversation.
Altogether, he was a very general favorite in a not too fastidious

Nor was the circle of the young attorney's acquaintances limited to
Jacksonville. As the county seat and most important town in Morgan
County, Jacksonville was a sort of rural emporium. Thither came
farmers from the country round about, to market their produce and to
purchase their supplies. The town had an unwontedly busy aspect on
Saturdays. This was the day which drew women to town. While they did
their shopping, the men loitered on street corners, or around the
Court House, to greet old acquaintances. Douglass was sure to be found
among them, joining in that most subtle of all social processes, the
forming of public opinion. Moving about from group to group, with his
pockets stuffed with newspapers, he became a familiar figure.[37]
Plain farmers, in clothes soiled with the rich loam of the prairies,
enjoyed hearing the young fellow express so pointedly their own
nascent convictions.

This forum was an excellent school for the future politician. The dust
might accumulate upon his law books: he was learning unwritten law in
the hearts of these countrymen. And yet, even at this time, he
exhibited a certain maturity. There seems never to have been a time
when the arts of the politician were not instinctive in him. He had no
boyish illusions to outlive regarding the nature and conditions of
public life. His perfect self-possession attested this mental

One of the first friendships which the young lawyer formed in his new
home was with S.S. Brooks, Esq., editor of the Jacksonville _News_.
While Douglass was still in Winchester, the first issue of this sheet
had appeared; and he had written a complimentary letter to Brooks,
congratulating him on his enterprise. The grateful editor never forgot
this kindly word of encouragement.[38] The intimacy which followed
was of great value to the younger man, who needed just the advertising
which the editor was in a position to give. The bond between them was
their devotion to the fortunes of Andrew Jackson. Together they
labored to consolidate the Democratic forces of the county, with
results which must have surprised even the sanguine young lawyer.

The political situation in Morgan County, as the State election
approached, is not altogether clear. President Jackson's high-handed
acts, particularly his attitude toward the National Bank, had alarmed
many men who had supported him in 1832. There were defections in the
ranks of the Democracy. The State elections would surely turn on
national issues. The Whigs were noisy, assertive, and confident.
Largely through the efforts of Brooks and Douglass, the Democrats of
Jacksonville were persuaded to call a mass-meeting of all good
Democrats in the county. It was on this occasion, very soon after his
arrival in town, that Douglass made his début on the political stage.

It is said that accident brought the young lawyer into prominence at
this meeting. A well-known Democrat who was to have presented
resolutions, demurred, at the last minute, and thrust the copy into
Douglass' hands, bidding him read them. The Court House was full to
overflowing with interested observers of this little by-play.
Excitement ran high, for the opposition within the party was vehement
in its protest to cut-and-dried resolutions commending Jackson. An
older man with more discretion and modesty, would have hesitated to
face the audience; but Douglass possessed neither retiring modesty
nor the sobriety which comes with years. He not only read the
resolutions, but he defended them with such vigorous logic and with
such caustic criticism of Whigs and half-hearted Democrats, that he
carried the meeting with him in tumultuous approval of the course of
Andrew Jackson, past and present.[39]

The next issue of the _Patriot_, the local Whig paper, devoted two
columns to the speech of this young Democratic upstart; and for weeks
thereafter the editor flayed him on all possible occasions. The result
was such an enviable notoriety for the young attorney among Whigs and
such fame among Democrats, that he received collection demands to the
amount of thousands of dollars from persons whom he had never seen or
known. In after years, looking back on these beginnings, he used to
wonder whether he ought not to have paid the editor of the _Patriot_
for his abuse, according to the usual advertising rates.[40] The
political outcome was not in every respect so gratifying. The
Democratic county ticket was elected and a Democratic congressman from
the district; but the Whigs elected their candidate for governor.

A factional quarrel among members of his own party gave Douglass his
reward for services to the cause of Democracy, and his first political
office. Captain John Wyatt nursed a grudge against John J. Hardin,
Esq., who had been elected State's attorney for the district through
his influence, but who had subsequently proved ungrateful. Wyatt had
been re-elected member of the legislature, however, in spite of
Hardin's opposition, and now wished to revenge himself, by ousting
Hardin from his office. With this end in view, Wyatt had Douglass
draft a bill making the State's attorneys elective by the legislature,
instead of subject to the governor's appointment. Since the new
governor was a Whig, he could not be used by the Democrats. The bill
met with bitter opposition, for it was alleged that it had no other
purpose than to vacate Hardin's office for the benefit of Douglass.
This was solemnly denied;[41] but when the bill had been declared
unconstitutional by the Council of Revision, Douglass' friends made
desperate exertions to pass the bill over the veto, with the now
openly avowed purpose to elect him to the office. The bill passed, and
on the 10th of February, 1835, the legislature in joint session
elected the boyish lawyer State's attorney for the first judicial
district, by a majority of four votes over an attorney of experience
and recognized merit. It is possible, as Douglass afterward averred,
that he neither coveted the office nor believed himself fitted for it;
and that his judgment was overruled by his friends. But he accepted
the office, nevertheless.

When Douglas,--for he had now begun to drop the superfluous s in the
family name, for simplicity's sake,[42]--set out on his judicial
circuit, he was not an imposing figure. There was little in his boyish
face to command attention, except his dark-blue, lustrous eyes. His
big head seemed out of proportion to his stunted figure. He measured
scarcely over five feet and weighed less than a hundred and ten
pounds. Astride his horse, he looked still more diminutive. His mount
was a young horse which he had borrowed. He carried under his arm a
single book, also loaned, a copy of the criminal law.[43] His chief
asset was a large fund of Yankee shrewdness and good nature.

An amusing incident occurred in McLean County at the first court which
Douglas attended. There were many indictments to be drawn, and the new
prosecuting attorney, in his haste, misspelled the name of the
county--M Clean instead of M'Lean. His professional brethren were
greatly amused at this evidence of inexperience; and made merry over
the blunder. Finally, John T. Stuart, subsequently Douglas's political
rival, moved that all the indictments be quashed. Judge Logan asked
the discomfited youth what he had to say to support the indictments.
Smarting under the gibes of Stuart, Douglas replied obstinately that
he had nothing to say, as he supposed the Court would not quash the
indictments until the point had been proven. This answer aroused more
merriment; but the Judge decided that the Court could not rule upon
the matter, until the precise spelling in the statute creating the
county had been ascertained. No one doubted what the result would be;
but at least Douglas had the satisfaction of causing his critics some
annoyance and two days' delay, for the statutes had to be procured
from an adjoining county. To the astonishment of Court and Bar, and of
Douglas himself, it appeared that Douglas had spelled the name
correctly. To the indescribable chagrin of the learned Stuart, the
Court promptly sustained all the indictments. The young attorney was
in high feather; and he made the most of his triumph. The incident
taught him a useful lesson: henceforth he would admit nothing, and
require his opponents to prove everything that bore upon the case in
hand. Some time later, upon comparing the printed statute of the
county with the enrolled bill in the office of the Secretary of State,
Douglas found that the printer had made a mistake and that the name of
the county should have been M'Lean.[44]

On the whole Douglas seems to have discharged his not very onerous
duties acceptably. The more his fellow practitioners saw of him, the
more respect they had for him. Moreover, they liked him personally.
His wholesome frankness disarmed ill-natured opponents; his generosity
made them fast friends. There was not an inn or hostelry in the
circuit, which did not welcome the sight of the talkative,
companionable, young district attorney.

Politically as well as socially, Illinois was in a transitional stage.
Although political parties existed, they were rather loose
associations of men holding similar political convictions than parties
in the modern sense with permanent organs of control. He who would
might stand for office, either announcing his own candidacy in the
newspapers, or if his modesty forbade this course, causing such an
announcement to be made by "many voters." In benighted districts,
where the light of the press did not shine, the candidate offered
himself in person. Even after the advent of Andrew Jackson in national
politics, allegiance to party was so far subordinated to personal
ambition, that it was no uncommon occurrence for several candidates
from each party to enter the lists.[45] From the point of view of
party, this practice was strategically faulty, since there was always
the possibility that the opposing party might unite on a single
candidate. What was needed to insure the success of party was the
rationale of an army. But organization was abhorrent to people so
tenacious of their personal freedom as Illinoisans, because
organization necessitated the subordination of the individual to the
centralized authority of the group. To the average man organization
spelled dictation.

The first step in the effective control of nominations by party in
Illinois, was taken by certain Democrats, foremost among whom was S.A.
Douglas, Esq. His rise as a politician, indeed, coincides with this
development of party organization and machinery. The movement began
sporadically in several counties. At the instance of Douglas and his
friend Brooks of the _News_, the Democrats of Morgan County put
themselves on record as favoring a State convention to choose
delegates to the national convention of 1836.[46] County after county
adopted the suggestion, until the movement culminated in a
well-attended convention at Vandalia in April, 1835. Not all counties
were represented, to be sure, and no permanent organization was
effected; but provision was made for a second convention in December,
to nominate presidential electors.[47] Among the delegates from Morgan
County in this December convention was Douglas, burning with zeal for
the consolidation of his party. Signs were not wanting that he was in
league with other zealots to execute a sort of _coup d'état_ within
the party. Early in the session, one Ebenezer Peck, recently from
Canada, boldly proposed that the convention should proceed to nominate
not only presidential electors but candidates for State offices as
well. A storm of protests broke upon his head, and for the moment he
was silenced; but on the second day, he and his confidants succeeded
in precipitating a general discussion of the convention system.
Peck--contemptuously styled "the Canadian" by his enemies--secured the
floor and launched upon a vigorous defense of the nominating
convention as a piece of party machinery. He thought it absurd to talk
of a man's having a right to become a candidate for office without the
indorsement of his party. He believed it equally irrational to allow
members of the party to consult personal preferences in voting. The
members of the party must submit to discipline, if they expected to
secure control of office. Confusion again reigned. The presiding
officer left the chair precipitately, denouncing the notions of Peck
as anti-republican.[48]

In the exciting wrangle that followed, Douglas was understood to say
that he had seen the workings of the nominating convention in New
York, and he knew it to be the only way to manage elections
successfully. The opposition had overthrown the great DeWitt Clinton
only by organizing and adopting the convention system. Gentlemen were
mistaken who feared that the people of the West had enjoyed their own
opinions too long to submit quietly to the wise regulations of a
convention. He knew them better: he had himself had the honor of
introducing the nominating convention into Morgan County, where it had
already prostrated one individual high in office. These wise
admonitions from a mere stripling failed to mollify the conservatives.
The meeting broke up in disorder, leaving the party with divided

Successful county and district conventions did much to break down the
resistance to the system. During the following months, Morgan County,
and the congressional district to which it belonged, became a
political experiment station. A convention at Jacksonville in April
not only succeeded in nominating one candidate for each elective
office, but also in securing the support of the disappointed aspirants
for office, which under the circumstances was in itself a triumph.[50]
Taking their cue from the enemy, the Whigs of Morgan County also
united upon a ticket for the State offices, at the head of which was
John J. Hardin, a formidable campaigner. When the canvass was fairly
under way, not a man could be found on the Democratic ticket to hold
his own with Hardin on the hustings. The ticket was then reorganized
so as to make a place for Douglas, who was already recognized as one
of the ablest debaters in the county. Just how this transposition was
effected is not clear. Apparently one of the nominees of the
convention for State representative was persuaded to withdraw.[51] The
Whigs promptly pointed out the inconsistency of this performance.
"What are good Democrats to do?" asked the Sangamo _Journal_
mockingly. Douglas had told them to vote for no man who had not been
nominated by a caucus![52]

The Democrats committed also another tactical blunder. The county
convention had adjourned without appointing delegates to the
congressional district convention, which was to be held at Peoria.
Such of the delegates as had remained in town, together with resident
Democrats, were hastily reassembled to make good this omission.[53]
Douglas and eight others were accredited to the Peoria convention; but
when they arrived, they found only four other delegates present, one
from each of four counties. Nineteen counties were unrepresented.[54]
Evidently there was little or no interest in this political
innovation. In no wise disheartened, however, these thirteen delegates
declared themselves a duly authorized district convention and put
candidates in nomination for the several offices. Again the Whig press
scored their opponents. "Our citizens cannot be led at the dictation
of a dozen unauthorized individuals, but will act as freemen," said
the Sangamo _Journal_.[55] There were stalwart Democrats, too, who
refused to put on "the Caucus collar." Douglas and his "Peoria Humbug
Convention" were roundly abused on all sides. The young politician
might have replied, and doubtless did reply, that the rank and file
had not yet become accustomed to the system, and that the bad roads
and inclement weather were largely responsible for the slim attendance
at Peoria.

The campaign was fought with the inevitable concomitants of an
Illinois election. The weapons that slew the adversary were not always
forged by logic. In rude regions, where the rougher border element
congregated, country stores were subsidized by candidates, and liquor
liberally dispensed. The candidate who refused to treat was doomed. He
was the last man to get a hearing, when the crowds gathered on
Saturday nights to hear the candidates discuss the questions at issue.
To speak from an improvised rostrum--"the stump"--to a boisterous
throng of men who had already accepted the orator's hospitality at the
store, was no light ordeal. This was the school of oratory in which
Douglas was trained.[56]

The election of all but one of the Democratic nominees was hailed as a
complete vindication of the nominating convention as a piece of party
machinery. Douglas shared the elation of his fellow workers, even
though he was made to feel that his nomination was not due to this
much-vaunted caucus system. At all events, the value of organization
and discipline had been demonstrated. The day of the professional
politician and of the machine was dawning in the frontier State of

During the campaign there had been much wild talk about internal
improvements. The mania which had taken possession of the people in
most Western States had affected the grangers of Illinois. It amounted
to an obsession. The State was called upon to use its resources and
unlimited credit to provide a market for their produce, by supplying
transportation facilities for every aspiring community. Elsewhere
State credit was building canals and railroads: why should Illinois,
so generously endowed by nature, lag behind? Where crops were spoiling
for a market, farmers were not disposed to inquire into the mysteries
of high finance and the nature of public credit. All doubts were laid
to rest by the magic phrase "natural resources."[57] Mass-meetings
here and there gave propulsion to the movement.[58] Candidates for
State office were forced to make the maddest pledges. A grand
demonstration was projected at Vandalia just as the legislature

The legislature which met in December, 1836, is one of the most
memorable, and least creditable, in the annals of Illinois. In full
view of the popular demonstrations at the capital, the members could
not remained unmoved and indifferent to the demands of their
constituents, if they wished. Besides, the great majority were already
committed in favor of internal improvements in some form. The subject
dwarfed all others. For a time two sessions a day were held; and
special committees prolonged their labors far into the night.
Petitions from every quarter deluged the assembly.[59]

A plan for internal improvements had already taken shape in the mind
of the young representative from Morgan County.[60] He made haste to
lay it before his colleagues. First of all, he would have the State
complete the Illinois and Michigan canal, and improve the navigation
of the Illinois and Wabash rivers. Then he would have two railroads
constructed which would cross the State from north to south, and from
east to west. For these purposes he would negotiate a loan, pledging
the credit of the State, and meet the interest payments by judicious
sales of the public lands which had been granted by the Federal
government for the construction of the Illinois and Michigan canal.
The most creditable feature of these proposals is their moderation.
This youth of twenty-three evinced far more conservatism than many
colleagues twice his age.

There was not the slightest prospect, however, that moderate views
would prevail. Log-rolling had already begun; the lobby was active;
and every member of the legislature who had pledged himself to his
constituents was solicitous that his section of the State should not
be passed over, in the general scramble for appropriations. In the end
a bill was drawn, which proposed to appropriate no less than
$10,230,000 for public works. A sum of $500,000 was set aside for
river improvements, but the remainder was to be expended in the
construction of eight railroads. A sop of $200,000 was tossed to those
counties through which no canal or railroad was to pass.[61] What were
prudent men to do? Should they support this bill, which they believed
to be thoroughly pernicious, or incur the displeasure of their
constituents by defeating this, and probably every other, project for
the session? Douglas was put in a peculiarly trying position. He had
opposed this "mammoth bill," but he knew his constituents favored it.
With great reluctance, he voted for the bill.[62] He was not minded
to immolate himself on the altar of public economy at the very
threshold of his career.[63]

Much the same issue was forced upon Douglas in connection with the
Illinois and Michigan canal. Unexpected obstacles to the construction
of the canal had been encountered. To allow the waters of Lake
Michigan to flow through the projected canal, it was found that a cut
eighteen feet deep would have to be made for twenty-eight miles
through solid rock. The cost of such an undertaking would exceed the
entire appropriation. It was then suggested that a shallow cut might
be made above the level of Lake Michigan which would then permit the
Calumet River or the Des Plaines, to be used as a feeder. The problem
was one for expert engineers to solve; but it devolved upon an
ignorant assembly, which seems to have done its best to reduce the
problem to a political equation. A majority of the House--Douglas
among them--favored a shallow cut, while the Senate voted for the deep
cut. The deadlock continued for some weeks, until a conference
committee succeeded in agreeing upon the Senate's programme. As a
member of the conferring committee, Douglas vigorously opposed this
settlement, but on the final vote in the House he yielded his
convictions. In after years he took great satisfaction in pointing
out--as evidence of his prescience--that the State became financially
embarrassed and had finally to adopt the shallow cut.[64]

The members of the 10th General Assembly have not been wont to point
with pride to their record. With a few notable exceptions they had
fallen victims to a credulity which had become epidemic. When the
assembly of 1840 repealed this magnificent act for the improvement of
Illinois, they encountered an accumulated indebtedness of over
$14,000,000. There are other aspects of the assembly of 1836-37 upon
which it is pleasanter to dwell.

As chairman of a committee on petitions Douglas rendered a real
service to public morality. The general assembly had been wont upon
petition to grant divorces by special acts. Before the legislature had
been in session ten days, no less than four petitions for divorces had
been received. It was a custom reflecting little credit upon the
State.[65] Reporting for his committee, Douglas contended that the
legislature had no power to grant divorces, but only to enact salutary
laws, which should state the circumstances under which divorces might
be granted by the courts. The existing practice, he argued, was
contrary to those provisions of the constitution which expressly
separated the three departments of government. Moreover, everyone
recognized the injustice and unwisdom of dissolving marriage contracts
by act of legislature, upon _ex parte_ evidence.[66] Without
expressing an opinion on the constitutional questions involved, the
assembly accepted the main recommendation of the committee, that
henceforth the legislature should not grant bills of divorce.[67]

One of the recurring questions during this session was whether the
State capital should be moved. Vandalia was an insignificant town,
difficult of access and rapidly falling far south of the center of
population in the State. Springfield was particularly desirous to
become the capital, though there were other towns which had claims
equally strong. The Sangamon County delegation was annoyingly
aggressive in behalf of their county seat. They were a conspicuous
group, not merely because of their stature, which earned for them the
nickname of "the Long Nine," but also because they were men of real
ability and practical shrewdness. By adroit management, a vote was
first secured to move the capital from Vandalia, and then to locate it
at Springfield. Unquestionably there was some trading of votes in
return for special concessions in the Internal Improvements bill. It
is said that Abraham Lincoln was the virtual head of the Sangamon
delegation, and the chief promoter of the project.[68]

Soon after the adjournment of the legislature, Douglas resigned his
seat to become Register of the Land Office at Springfield; and when
"the Long Nine" returned to their constituents and were fêted and
banqueted by the grateful citizens of Springfield, Douglas sat among
the guests of honor.[69] It began to be rumored about that the young
man owed his appointment to the Sangamon delegation, whose schemes he
had industriously furthered in the legislature. Finally, the Illinois
_Patriot_ made the direct accusation of bargain.[70] Touched to the
quick, Douglas wrote a letter to the editor which fairly bristles with
righteous indignation. His circumstantial denial of the charge,--his
well-known opposition to the removal of the capital and to all the
schemes of the Sangamon delegation during the session,--cleared him of
all complicity. Indeed, Douglas was too zealous a partisan to play
into the hands of the Sangamon Whigs.[71]

The advent of the young Register at the Land Office was noted by the
Sangamo Whig _Journal_ in these words: "The Land Office at this place
was opened on Monday last. We are told the _little man_ from Morgan
was perfectly astonished, at finding himself making money at the rate
of from one to two hundred dollars a day!"[72] This sarcastic comment
is at least good evidence that the office was doing a thriving
business. In two respects Douglas had bettered himself by this change
of occupation. He could not afford to hold his seat in the legislature
with its small salary. Now he was assured of a competence. Besides, as
a resident of Springfield, he could keep in touch with politics at the
future capital and bide his time until he was again promoted for
conspicuous service to his party.

The educative value of his new office was no small consideration to
the young lawyer. He not only kept the records and plans of surveys
within his district, but put up each tract at auction, in accordance
with the proclamation of the President, and issued certificates of
sale to all purchasers, describing the land purchased. The duties were
not onerous, but they required considerable familiarity with land laws
and with the practical difficulties arising from imperfect surveys,
pre-emption rights, and conflicting claims.[73] Daily contact with the
practical aspects of the public land policy of the country, seems to
have opened his eyes to the significance of the public domain as a
national asset. With all his realism, Douglas was gifted with a
certain sort of imagination in things political. He not only saw what
was obvious to the dullest clerk,--the revenue derived from land
sales,--but also those intangible and prospective gains which would
accrue to State and nation from the occupation and cultivation of the
national domain. He came to believe that, even if not a penny came
into the treasury, the government would still be richer from having
parcelled out the great uninhabited wastes in the West. Beneath the
soiled and uncomely exterior of the Western pioneer, native or
foreigner, Douglas discerned not only a future tax-bearer, but the
founder of Commonwealths.

Only isolated bits of tradition throw light upon the daily life of the
young Register of the Land Office. All point to the fact that politics
was his absorbing interest. He had no avocations; he had no private
life, no esoteric tastes which invite a prying curiosity; he had no
subtle aspects of character and temperament which sometimes make even
commonplace lives dramatic. His life was lived in the open. Lodging at
the American Tavern, he was always seen in company with other men.
Diller's drug-store, near the old market, was a familiar rendezvous
for him and his boon companions. Just as he had no strong interests
which were not political, so his intimates were likely to be his
political confrères. He had no literary tastes: if he read at all, he
read law or politics.[74] Yet while these characteristics suggest
narrowness, they were perhaps the inevitable outcome of a society
possessing few cultural resources and refinements, but tremendous
directness of purpose.

One of the haunts of Douglas in these Springfield days was the office
of the _Republican_, a Democratic journal then edited by the Webers.
There he picked up items of political gossip and chatted with the
chance comer, or with habitués like himself. He was a welcome visitor,
just the man whom a country editor, mauling over hackneyed matter,
likes to have stimulate his flagging wits with a jest or a racy
anecdote. Now and then Douglas would take up a pen good-naturedly, and
scratch off an editorial which would set Springfield politicians by
the ears. The tone of the _Republican_, as indeed of the Western press
generally at this time, was low. Editors of rival newspapers heaped
abuse upon each other, without much regard to either truth or decency.
Feuds were the inevitable product of these editorial amenities.

On one occasion, the _Republican_ charged the commissioners appointed
to supervise the building of the new State House in Springfield, with
misuse of the public funds. The commissioners made an apparently
straightforward defense of their expenditures. The _Republican_
doubted the statement and reiterated the charge in scurrilous
language. Then the aggrieved commissioners, accompanied by their
equally exasperated friends, descended upon the office of the
_Republican_ to take summary vengeance. It so happened that Douglas
was at the moment comfortably ensconced in the editorial sanctum. He
could hardly do otherwise than assist in the defense; indeed, it is
more than likely that he had provoked the assault. In the disgraceful
brawl that followed, the attacking party was beaten off with heavy
losses. Sheriff Elkins, who seems to have been acting in an unofficial
capacity as a friend of the commissioners, was stabbed, though not
fatally, by one of the Weber brothers.[75]

From such unedifying episodes in the career of a rising politician,
public attention was diverted by the excitement of a State election.
Since the abortive attempts to commit the Democratic party to the
convention system in 1835, party opinion had grown more favorable to
the innovation. Rumors that the Whigs were about to unite upon a State
ticket doubtless hastened the conversion of many Democrats.[76] When
the legislature met for a special session in July, the leading spirits
in the reform movement held frequent consultations, the outcome of
which was a call for a Democratic State convention in December. Every
county was invited to send delegates. A State committee of fifteen was
appointed, and each county was urged to form a similar committee.
Another committee was also created--the Committee of Thirty--to
prepare an address to the voters. Fifth on this latter committee was
the name of S.A. Douglas of Sangamon.[77] The machinery of the party
was thus created out of hand by a group of unauthorized leaders. They
awaited the reaction of the insoluble elements in the party, with some

The new organization had no more vigilant defender than Douglas. From
his coign of vantage in the Land Office, he watched the trend of
opinion within the party, not forgetting to observe at the same time
the movements of the Whigs. There were certain phrases in the "Address
to the Democratic Republicans of Illinois" which may have been coined
in his mint. The statement that "the Democratic Republicans of
Illinois propose to bring theirs [their candidates] forward by the
full and consentaneous voice of every member of their political
association," has a familiar, full-mouthed quality.[78] The Democrats
of Sangamon called upon him to defend the caucus at a mass-meeting;
and when they had heard his eloquent exposition of the new System,
they resolved with great gravity that it offered "the only safe and
proper way of securing union and victory."[79] There is something
amusing in the confident air of this political expert aged
twenty-four; yet there is no disputing the fact that his words carried
weight with men of far wider experience than his own.

Before many weeks of the campaign had passed, Douglas had ceased to be
merely a consultative specialist on party ailments. Not at all
unwillingly, he was drawn into active service. It was commonly
supposed that the Honorable William L. May, who had served a term in
Congress acceptably, would again become the nominee of the Democratic
party without opposition. If the old-time practice prevailed, he would
quietly assume the nomination "at the request of many friends." Still,
consistency required that the nomination should be made in due form by
a convention. The Springfield _Republican_ clamored for a convention;
and the Jacksonville _News_ echoed the cry.[80] Other Democratic
papers took up the cry, until by general agreement a congressional
district convention was summoned to meet at Peoria. The Jacksonville
_News_ was then ready with a list of eligible candidates among whom
Douglas was mentioned. At the same time the enterprising Brooks
announced "authoritatively" that _if_ Mr. May concluded to become a
candidate, he would submit his claims to the consideration of the
convention.[81] This was the first intimation that the gentleman's
claims were likely to be contested in the convention. Meantime, good
friends in Sangamon County saw to it that the county delegation was
made up of men who were favorably disposed toward Douglas, and bound
them by instructions to act as a unit in the convention.[82]

The history of the district convention has never been written: it
needs no historian. Under the circumstances the outcome was a foregone
conclusion. Not all the counties were represented; some were poorly
represented; most of the delegates came without any clearly defined
aims; all were unfamiliar with the procedure of conventions. The
Sangamon County delegation alone, with the possible exception of that
from Morgan County, knew exactly what it wanted. When a ballot was
taken, Douglas received a majority of votes cast, and was declared to
be the regular nominee of the party for Congress.[83]

There was much shaking of heads over this machine-made nomination. An
experienced public servant had been set aside to gratify the ambition
of a mere stripling. Even Democrats commented freely upon the
untrustworthiness of a device which left nominations to the caprice of
forty delegates representing only fourteen counties out of
thirty-five.[84] The Whigs made merry over the folly of their
opponents. "No nomination could suit us better," declared the Sangamo

The Democratic State convention met at the appointed time, and again
new methods prevailed. In spite of strong opposition, a slate was made
up and proclaimed as the regular ticket of the party. Unhappily, the
nominee for governor fell under suspicion as an alleged defaulter to
the government, so that his deposition became imperative.[86] The
Democrats were in a sorry plight. Defeat stared them in the face.
There was but one way to save the situation, and that was to call a
second convention. This was done. On June 5th, a new ticket was put in
the field, without further mention of the discredited nominee of the
earlier convention.[87] It so happened that Carlin, the nominee for
Governor, and McRoberts, candidate for Congress from the first
district, were receivers in land offices. This "Land Office Ticket"
became a fair mark for wags in the Whig party.[88]

In after years, Douglas made his friends believe that he accepted the
nomination with no expectation of success: his only purpose was to
"consolidate the party."[89] If this be true, his buoyant optimism
throughout the canvass is admirable. He was pitted against a
formidable opponent in the person of Major John T. Stuart, who had
been the candidate of the Whigs two years before. Stuart enjoyed great
popularity. He was "an old resident" of Springfield,--as Western
people then reckoned time. He had earned his title in the Black Hawk
War, since which he had practiced law. For the arduous campaign, which
would range over thirty-four counties,--from Calhoun, Morgan and
Sangamon on the south to Cook County on the north,--Stuart was
physically well-equipped.[90]

Douglas was eager to match himself against Stuart. They started off
together, in friendly rivalry. As they rode from town to town over
much the same route, they often met in joint debate; and at night,
striking a truce, they would on occasion, when inns were few and far
between, occupy the same quarters. Accommodations were primitive in
the wilderness of the northern counties. An old resident relates how
he was awakened one night by the landlord of the tavern, who insisted
that he and his companion should share their beds with two belated
travelers. The late arrivals turned out to be Douglas and Stuart.
Douglas asked the occupants of the beds what their politics were, and
on learning that one was a Whig and the other a Democrat, he said to
Stuart, "Stuart, you sleep with the Whig, and I'll sleep with the

Douglas never seemed conscious of the amusing discrepancy between
himself and his rival in point of physique. Stuart was fully six feet
tall and heavily built, so that he towered like a giant above his
boyish competitor. Yet strange to relate, the exposure to all kinds of
weather, the long rides, and the incessant speaking in the open air
through five weary months, told on the robust Stuart quite as much as
on Douglas. In the midst of the canvass Douglas found his way to
Chicago. He must have been a forlorn object. His horse, his clothes,
his boots, and his hat were worn out. His harness was held together
only by ropes and strings. Yet he was still plucky. And so his friends
fitted him out again and sent him on his way rejoicing.[92]

The rivals began the canvass good-naturedly, but both gave evidence of
increasing irritability as the summer wore on. Shortly before the
election, they met in joint debate at Springfield, in front of the
Market House. In the course of his speech, Douglas used language that
offended his big opponent. Stuart then promptly tucked Douglas's head
under his arm, and carried him _hors de combat_ around the square. In
his efforts to free himself, Douglas seized Stuart's thumb in his
mouth and bit it vigorously, so that Stuart carried a scar, as a
memento of the occasion, for many a year.[93]

As the canvass advanced, the assurance of the Whigs gave way to
ill-disguised alarm. Disquieting rumors of Douglas's popularity among
some two thousand Irishmen, who were employed on the canal excavation,
reached the Whig headquarters.[94] The young man was assiduously
cultivating voters in the most inaccessible quarters. He was a far
more resourceful campaigner than his older rival.

The election in August was followed by weeks of suspense. Both parties
claimed the district vociferously. The official count finally gave the
election to Stuart by a majority of thirty-five, in a total vote of
over thirty-six thousand.[95] Possibly Douglas might have successfully
contested the election.[96] There were certain discrepancies in the
counting of the votes; but he declined to vex Congress with the
question, so he said, because similar cases were pending and he could
not hope to secure a decision before Congress adjourned. It is
doubtful whether this merciful consideration for Congress was
uppermost in his mind in the year 1838. The fact is, that Douglas
wrote to Senator Thomas H. Benton to ascertain the proper procedure in
such cases;[97] and abandoned the notion of carrying his case before
Congress, when he learned how costly such a contest would be.[98] He
had resigned his position as Register of the Land Office to enter the
campaign, and he had now no other resources than his profession.

It was comforting to the wounded pride of the young man to have the
plaudits of his own party, at least. He had made a gallant fight; and
when Democrats from all over the State met at a dinner in honor of
Governor-elect Carlin, at Quincy, they paid him this generous tribute:
"Although so far defeated in the election that the certificate will be
given to another, yet he has the proud gratification of knowing that
the people are with him. His untiring zeal, his firm integrity, and
high order of talents, have endeared him to the Democracy of the State
and they will remember him two years hence."[99] Meantime there was
nothing left for him to do but to solicit a law practice. He entered
into partnership with a Springfield attorney by the name of Urquhart.

By the following spring, Douglas was again dabbling in local politics,
and by late fall he was fully immersed in the deeper waters of
national politics. Preparations for the presidential campaign drew him
out of his law office,--where indeed there was nothing to detain
him,--and he was once again active in party conclaves. He presided
over a Democratic county convention, and lent a hand in the drafting
of a platform.[100] In November he was summoned to answer Cyrus
Walker, a Whig who was making havoc of the Democratic programme at a
mass-meeting in the Court House. In the absence of any reliable
records, nothing more can be said of Douglas's rejoinder than that it
moved the Whigs in turn to summon reinforcements, in the person of the
awkward but clever Lincoln. The debate was prolonged far into the
night; and on which side victory finally folded her wings, no man can
tell.[101] Douglas made the stronger impression, though Whigs
professed entire satisfaction with the performance of their
protagonist. There were some in the audience who took exception to
Lincoln's stale anecdotes, and who thought his manner clownish.[102]

Not long after this encounter, Douglas came in for his share of public
ridicule. Considering himself insulted by a squib in the Sangamo
_Journal_, Douglas undertook to cane the editor. But as Francis was
large and rotund, and Douglas was not, the affair terminated
unsatisfactorily for the latter. Lincoln described the incident with
great relish, in a letter to Stuart: "Francis caught him by the hair
and jammed him back against a market-cart, where the matter ended by
Francis being pulled away from him. The whole affair was so ludicrous
that Francis and everybody else, Douglas excepted, have been laughing
about it ever since."[103] The Illinois _State Register_ tried to save
Douglas's dignity by the following account of the rencontre: "Mr.
Francis had applied scurrilous language to Mr. Douglas, which could be
noticed in no other way. Mr. Douglas, therefore, gave him a sound
caning, which Mr. Francis took with Abolition patience, and is now
praising God that he was neither killed nor scathed."

The executive talents of Douglas were much in demand. First he was
made a member of the Sangamon County delegation to the State
convention;[104] then chairman of the State Central Committee; and
finally, virtual manager of the Democratic campaign in Illinois.[105]
He was urged to stand for election to the legislature; but he steadily
refused this nomination. "Considerations of a private nature," he
wrote, "constrain me to decline the nomination, and leave the field to
those whose avocations and private affairs will enable them to devote
the requisite portion of their time to the canvass."[106] Inasmuch as
Sangamon County usually sent a Whig delegation to the legislature,
this declination could hardly have cost him many hours of painful
deliberation.[107] At all events his avocations did not prevent him
from making every effort to carry the State for the Democratic party.

An unfortunate legal complication had cost the Democrats no end of
worry. Hitherto the party had counted safely on the vote of the aliens
in the State; that is, actual inhabitants whether naturalized or
not.[108] The right of unnaturalized aliens to vote had never been
called in question. But during the campaign, two Whigs of Galena
instituted a collusive suit to test the rights of aliens, hoping, of
course, to embarrass their opponents.[109] The Circuit Court had
already decided the case adversely, when Douglas assumed direction of
the campaign. If the decision were allowed to stand, the Democratic
ticket would probably lose some nine thousand votes and consequently
the election. The case was at once appealed.[110] Douglas and his old
friend and benefactor, Murray McConnell, were retained as counsel for
the appellant. The opposing counsel were Whigs. The case was argued in
the winter term of the Supreme Court, but was adjourned until the
following June, a scant six months before the elections.

It was regrettable that a case, which from its very nature was
complicated by political considerations, should have arisen in the
midst of a campaign of such unprecedented excitement as that of 1840.
It was taken for granted, on all sides, that the judges would follow
their political predilections--and what had Democrats to expect from a
bench of Whigs? The counsel for the appellant strained every nerve to
secure another postponement. Fortune favored the Democrats. When the
court met in June, Douglas, prompted by Judge Smith, the only Democrat
on the bench, called attention to clerical errors in the record, and
on this technicality moved that the case be dismissed. Protracted
arguments _pro and con_ ensued, so that the whole case finally was
adjourned until the next term of court in November, after the
election.[111] Once more, at all events, the Democrats could count on
the alien vote. Did ever lawyer serve politician so well?

As Chairman of the State Central Committee, Douglas had no perfunctory
position. The Whigs were displaying unusual aggressiveness. Their
leaders were adroit politicians and had taken a leaf from Democratic
experience in the matter of party organization. The processions, the
torch-light parades, the barbecues and other noisy demonstrations of
the Whigs, were very disconcerting. Such performances could not be
lightly dismissed as "Whig Humbuggery," for they were alarmingly
effective in winning votes. In self-defense, the Democratic managers
were obliged to set on foot counter-demonstrations. On the whole, the
Democrats were less successful in manufacturing enthusiasm. When one
convention of young Democrats failed, for want of support, Douglas
saved the situation only by explaining that hard-working Democrats
could not leave their employment to go gadding. They preferred to
leave noise and sham to their opponents, knowing that in the end "the
quiet but certain influence of truth and correct principles" would
prevail.[112] And when the Whigs unwittingly held a great
demonstration for "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," on the birthday of King
George III, Douglas saw to it that an address was issued to voters,
warning them against the chicane of unpatriotic demagogues. As a
counter-blast, "All Good Democrats" were summoned to hold
mass-meetings in the several counties on the Fourth of July. "We
select the Fourth of July," read this pronunciamento, "not to
desecrate it with unhallowed shouts ... but in cool and calm devotion
to our country, to renew upon the altars of its liberties, a sacred
oath of fidelity to its principles."[113]

Both parties now drew upon their reserves. Douglas went to the front
whenever and wherever there was hard fighting to be done.[114] He
seemed indefatigable. Once again he met Major Stuart on the
platform.[115] He was pitted against experienced campaigners like
ex-Governor Duncan and General Ewing of Indiana. Douglas made a
fearless defence of Democratic principles in a joint debate with both
these Whig champions at Springfield.[116] The discussion continued far
into the night. In his anxiety to let no point escape, Douglas had his
supper brought to him; and it is the testimony of an old Whig who
heard the debate, that Duncan was "the worst used-up man" he ever
saw.[117] Whether Douglas took the field as on this occasion, or
directed the campaign from headquarters, he was cool, collected, and
resourceful. If the sobriquet of "the Little Giant" had not already
been fastened upon him, it was surely earned in this memorable
campaign of 1840. The victory of Van Buren over Harrison in Illinois
was little less than a personal triumph for Douglas, for Democratic
reverses elsewhere emphasized the already conspicuous fact that
Illinois had been saved only by superior organization and leadership.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 36: Joseph Wallace in a letter to the Illinois _State
Register_, April 30, 1899.]

[Footnote 37: Illinois _State Register_, April 30, 1899.]

[Footnote 38: Sheahan, Life of Douglas, pp. 16-17.]

[Footnote 39: Sheahan's account of this incident (pp. 18-20) is
confused. The episode is told very differently in the MS.

[Footnote 40: MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 41: In the Autobiography, Douglas makes a vigorous defense
of his connection with the whole affair.]

[Footnote 42: Just when he dropped the final s, I am unable to say.
Joseph Wallace thinks that he did so soon after coming to Illinois.
See Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 1901, p.

[Footnote 43: Joseph Wallace in the Illinois _State Register_, April
30, 1899.]

[Footnote 44: Douglas tells the story with great relish in his
autobiography. The title of the act reads "An Act creating M'Lean
County," but the body of the act gives the name as McLean. Douglas had
used the exact letters of the name, though he had twisted the capital
letters, writing a capital C for a capital L.]

[Footnote 45: Ford, History of Illinois, pp. 285-286; see contemporary

[Footnote 46: Illinois _Advocate_, May 4, 1835.]

[Footnote 47: _Ibid._, May 6, 1835.]

[Footnote 48: Illinois _Advocate_, Dec. 17, 1835; Sangamo _Journal_,
Feb. 6, 1836.]

[Footnote 49: Sangamo _Journal_, February 6, 1836.]

[Footnote 50: There was one exception, see Sheahan, Douglas, p. 26.]

[Footnote 51: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 26; Wheeler, Biographical History,
p. 67; Sangamo _Journal_, May 7, 1836.]

[Footnote 52: Sangamo _Journal_, May 7, 1836.]

[Footnote 53: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 54: _Ibid._, May 14, 1836.]

[Footnote 55: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 56: Ford, History of Illinois, pp. 103-105.]

[Footnote 57: See letter of "M--" in the Illinois _State Register_,
July 29, 1836.]

[Footnote 58: Illinois _State Register_, October 28, 1836.]

[Footnote 59: _Ibid._, December 8, 1836.]

[Footnote 60: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 29; MS. Autobiography.]

[Footnote 61: Act of February 27, 1837.]

[Footnote 62: In his Autobiography Douglas says that the friends of
the bill persuaded his constituents to instruct him to vote for the
bill; hence his affirmative vote was the vote of his constituents.]

[Footnote 63: Douglas was in good company at all events. Abraham
Lincoln was one of those who voted for the bill.]

[Footnote 64: See Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, Chapter 40;
Wheeler, Biographical History, pp. 68-70; Sheahan, Douglas, pp.

[Footnote 65: But it was no worse than the English custom before the
Act of 1857.]

[Footnote 66: House Journal, p. 62.]

[Footnote 67: The assembly substituted the word "inexpedient" for
"unconstitutional," in the resolution submitted by Douglas. House
Journal, p. 62.]

[Footnote 68: Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, I, pp. 137-138.]

[Footnote 69: _Ibid._, p. 139.]

[Footnote 70: Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society,
1901, p. 111.]

[Footnote 71: Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society,
1901, pp. 111-112. The Sangamo _Journal_, August 5, 1837, says that
Douglas owed his appointment to the efforts of Senator Young in his

[Footnote 72: Sangamo _Journal_, August 29, 1837.]

[Footnote 73: Douglas describes his duties in Cutts, Const. and Party
Questions, pp. 160 ff.]

[Footnote 74: Conversation with Charles A. Keyes, Esq., of
Springfield, and with Dr. A.W. French, also of Springfield, Illinois.]

[Footnote 75: Sangamo _Journal_, July 1, 1837. The newspaper accounts
of this affair are confusing; but they are in substantial agreement as
to the causes and outcome of the attack upon the office of the

[Footnote 76: Illinois _State Register_, July 22, 1837.]

[Footnote 77: Illinois _State Register_, July 22, 1837.]

[Footnote 78: _Ibid._, November 4, 1837.]

[Footnote 79: _Ibid._, October 27, 1837.]

[Footnote 80: Illinois _State Register_, October 13, 1837.]

[Footnote 81: Jacksonville _News_, quoted by Illinois _State
Register_, Oct. 13, 1837.]

[Footnote 82: Illinois _State Register_, October 27, 1837.]

[Footnote 83: Illinois _State Register_, December 9, 1837; Sangamo
_Journal_, November 25, 1837.]

[Footnote 84: Sangamo _Journal_, November 25, 1837; but see also
Peoria _Register_, November 25, 1837.]

[Footnote 85: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 86: See Illinois _State Register_, May 11, 1838.]

[Footnote 87: Illinois _State Register_, June 8, 1838.]

[Footnote 88: Sangamo _Journal_, July 21, 1838.]

[Footnote 89: Wheeler, Biographical History of Congress I, pp. 72-73;
Sheahan, Douglas, p. 36.]

[Footnote 90: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 36-37; Transactions of the
Illinois State Historical Society, 1902, pp. 109 ff; Peoria
_Register_, May 19, 1838.]

[Footnote 91: Palmer, Personal Recollections, p. 24.]

[Footnote 92: Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men, II, p. 180.]

[Footnote 93: Transactions of the Illinois Historical Society, 1902,
p. 110.]

[Footnote 94: Sangamo _Journal_, August 25, 1838; Peoria _Register_,
August 11, 1838.]

[Footnote 95: Election returns in the Office of the Secretary of

[Footnote 96: See Sheahan, Douglas, p. 37; also Illinois _State
Register_, October 12, 1838.]

[Footnote 97: MS. Letter, Benton to Douglas, October 27, 1838.]

[Footnote 98: For correspondence between Douglas and Stuart, see
Illinois _State Register_, April 5, 1839.]

[Footnote 99: Illinois _State Register_, October 26, 1838.]

[Footnote 100: _Ibid._, April 5, 1839.]

[Footnote 101: Illinois _State Register_, November 23, 1839.]

[Footnote 102: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 103: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, I, p. 181.]

[Footnote 104: Illinois _State Register_, November 23, 1839.]

[Footnote 105: _Ibid._, February 21, 1840.]

[Footnote 106: _Ibid._, April 24, 1840.]

[Footnote 107: See Illinois _State Register_, August 7, 1840.]

[Footnote 108: The Constitution of 1819 bestowed the suffrage upon
every white male "inhabitant" twenty-one years of age.]

[Footnote 109: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 44-45.]

[Footnote 110: The title of the case was Thomas Spraggins, appellant
_vs._ Horace H. Houghton, appellee.]

[Footnote 111: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 45-46; Wheeler, Biographical
History of Congress, p. 76.]

[Footnote 112: Illinois _State Register_, May 15, 1840.]

[Footnote 113: _Ibid._, June 12, 1840.]

[Footnote 114: Illinois _State Register_, July 10, 1840; Forney,
Anecdotes of Public Men, II, p. 180.]

[Footnote 115: _Ibid._, September 4, 1840.]

[Footnote 116: _Ibid._, October 2, 1840.]

[Footnote 117: Letter of J.H. Roberts, Esq., of Chicago, to the
writer; see also Illinois _State Register_, October 2, 1840.]



The years were passing rapidly during which Douglas should have laid
broad and deep the foundations of his professional career, if indeed
law was to be more than a convenient avocation. These were formative
years in the young man's life; but as yet he had developed neither the
inclination nor the capacity to apply himself to the study of the more
intricate and abstruse phases of jurisprudence. To be sure, he had
picked up much practical information in the courts, but it was not of
the sort which makes great jurists. Besides, his law practice had
been, and was always destined to be, the handmaid of his political
ambition. In such a school, a naturally ardent, impulsive temperament
does not acquire judicial poise and gravity. After all, he was only a
soldier of political fortune, awaiting his turn for promotion. A
reversal in the fortunes of his party might leave him without hope of
preferment, and bind him to a profession which is a jealous mistress,
and to which he had been none too constant. Happily, his party was now
in power, and he was entitled to first consideration in the
distribution of the spoils. Under somewhat exceptional circumstances
the office of Secretary of State fell vacant in the autumn of 1840,
and the chairman of the Democratic Central Committee entered into his

When Governor Carlin took office in 1838, he sent to the Senate the
nomination of John A. McClernand as Secretary of State, assuming that
the office had been vacated and that a new Governor might choose his
advisers.[118] Precedent, it is true, militated against this theory,
for Secretary Field had held office under three successive governors;
but now that parties had become more sharply defined, it was deemed
important that the Secretary of State should be of the same political
persuasion as the Governor,--and Field was a Whig. The Senate refused
to indorse this new theory. Whereupon the Governor waited until the
legislature adjourned, and renewed his appointment of McClernand, who
promptly brought action against the tenacious Field to obtain
possession of the office. The case was argued in the Circuit Court
before Judge Breese, who gave a decision in favor of McClernand. The
case was then appealed. Among the legal talent arrayed on the side of
the claimant, when the case appeared on the docket of the Supreme
Court, was Douglas--as a matter of course. Everyone knew that this was
not so much a case at law as an issue in politics. The decision of the
Supreme Court reversing the judgment of the lower court was received,
therefore, as a partisan move to protect a Whig office-holder.[119]

For a time the Democrats, in control elsewhere, found themselves
obliged to tolerate a dissident in their political family; but the
Democratic majority in the new legislature came promptly to the aid of
the Governor's household. Measures were set on foot to terminate
Secretary Field's tenure of office by legislative enactment. Just at
this juncture that gentleman prudently resigned; and Stephen A.
Douglas was appointed to the office which he had done his best to

This appointment was a boon to the impecunious young attorney. He
could now count on a salary which would free him from any concern
about his financial liabilities,--if indeed they ever gave him more
than momentary concern. Besides, as custodian of the State Library, he
had access to the best collection of law books in the State. The
duties of his office were not so exacting but that he could still
carry on his law studies, and manage such incidental business as came
his way. These were the obvious and tangible advantages which Douglas
emphasized in the mellow light of recollection.[121] Yet there were
other, less obvious, advantages which he omitted to mention.

The current newspapers of this date make frequent mention of an
institution popularly dubbed "the Third House," or "Lord Coke's
Assembly."[122] The archives of state do not explain this unique
institution. Its location was in the lobby of the State House. Like
many another extra-legal body it kept no records of its proceedings;
yet it wielded a potent influence. It was attended regularly by those
officials who made the lobby a rendezvous; irregularly, by politicians
who came to the Capitol on business; and on pressing occasions, by
members of the legislature who wished to catch the undertone of party
opinion. The debates in this Third House often surpassed in interest
the formal proceedings behind closed doors across the corridor.
Members of this house were not held to rigid account for what they
said. Many a political _coup_ was plotted in the lobby. The grist
which came out of the legislative mill was often ground by
irresponsible politicians out of hearing of the Speaker of the House.
The chance comer was quite as likely to find the Secretary of State in
the lobby as in his office among his books.

The lobby was a busy place in this winter session of 1840-41. It was
well known that Democratic leaders had planned an aggressive
reorganization of the Supreme Court, in anticipation of an adverse
decision in the famous Galena alien case. The Democratic programme was
embodied in a bill which proposed to abolish the existing Circuit
Courts, and to enlarge the Supreme Court by the addition of five
judges. Circuit Courts were to be held by the nine judges of the
Supreme Court.[123] Subsequent explanations did not, and could not,
disguise the real purpose of this chaste reform.[124]

While this revolutionary measure was under fire in the legislature and
in the Third House, the Supreme Court rendered its opinion in the
alien case. To the amazement of the reformers, the decision did not
touch the broad, constitutional question of the right of aliens to
vote, but simply the concrete, particular question arising under the
Election Law of 1829.[125] Judge Smith alone dissented and argued the
larger issue. The admirable self-restraint of the Court, so far from
stopping the mouths of detractors, only excited more unfavorable
comment. The suspicion of partisanship, sedulously fed by angry
Democrats, could not be easily eradicated. The Court was now condemned
for its contemptible evasion of the real question at issue.

Douglas made an impassioned speech to the lobby, charging the Court
with having deliberately suppressed its decision on the paramount
issue, in order to disarm criticism and to avert the impending
reorganization of the bench.[126] He called loudly for the passage of
the bill before the legislature; and the lobby echoed his sentiments.
McClernand in the House corroborated this charge by stating, "under
authorization," that the judges had withdrawn the opinion which they
had prepared in June.[127] Thereupon four of the five judges made an
unqualified denial of the charge.[128] McClernand fell back helplessly
upon the word of Douglas. Pushed into a corner, Douglas then stated
publicly, that he had made his charges against the Court on the
explicit information given to him privately by Judge Smith. Six others
testified that they had been similarly informed, or misinformed, by
the same high authority.[129] At all events, the mischief had been
done. Under the party whip the bill to reorganize the Supreme Court
was driven through both houses of the legislature, and unofficially
ratified by Lord Coke's Assembly in the lobby.

Already it was noised abroad that Douglas was "slated" for one of the
newly created judgeships. The Whig press ridiculed the suggestion but
still frankly admitted, that if party services were to qualify for
such an appointment, the "Generalessimo of the Loco-focos of Illinois"
was entitled to consideration. When rumor passed into fact, and
Douglas was nominated by the Governor, even Democrats demurred. It
required no little generosity on the part of older men who had
befriended the young man, to permit him to pass over their heads in
this fashion.[130] Besides, what legal qualifications could this young
man of twenty-seven possess for so important a post?

The new judges entered upon their duties under a cloud. Almost their
first act was to vacate the clerkship of the court, for the benefit of
that arch-politician, Ebenezer Peck; and that, too,--so men
said,--without consulting their Whig associates on the bench. It was
commonly reported that Peck had changed his vote in the House just
when one more vote was needed to pass the Judiciary Bill.[131] Very
likely this rumor was circulated by some malicious newsmonger, but the
appointment of Peck certainly did not inspire confidence in the newly
organized court.

Was it to make his ambition seem less odious, that Douglas sought to
give the impression that he accepted the appointment with reluctance
and at a "pecuniary sacrifice"; or was he, as Whigs maintained, forced
out of the Secretaryship of State to make way for one of the
Governor's favorites?[132] He could not have been perfectly sincere,
at all events, when he afterward declared that he supposed he was
taking leave of political life forever.[133] No one knew better than
he, that a popular judge is a potential candidate for almost any
office in the gift of the people.

Before starting out on his circuit Douglas gave conspicuous proof of
his influence in the lobby, and incidentally, as it happened, cast
bread upon the waters. The Mormons who had recently settled in Nauvoo,
in Hancock County, had petitioned the legislature for acts
incorporating the new city and certain of its peculiar institutions.
Their sufferings in Missouri had touched the people of Illinois, who
welcomed them as a persecuted sect. For quite different reasons,
Mormon agents were cordially received at the Capitol. Here their
religious tenets were less carefully scrutinized than their political
affiliations. The Mormons found little trouble in securing lobbyists
from both parties. Bills were drawn to meet their wishes and presented
to the legislature, where parties vied with each other in befriending
the unfortunate refugees from Missouri.[134]

Chance--or was it design?--assigned Judge Douglas to the Quincy
circuit, within which lay Hancock County and the city of Nauvoo. The
appointment was highly satisfactory to the Mormons, for while they
enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy by virtue of their new
charter, they deemed it advantageous to have the court of the vicinage
presided over by one who had proved himself a friend. Douglas at once
confirmed this good impression. He appointed the commander of the
Nauvoo Legion a master in chancery; and when a case came before him
which involved interpretation of the act incorporating this peculiar
body of militia, he gave a constructive interpretation which left the
Mormons independent of State officers in military affairs.[135]
Whatever may be said of this decision in point of law, it was at least
good politics; and the dividing line between law and politics was none
too sharply drawn in the Fifth Judicial District.

Politicians were now figuring on the Mormon vote in the approaching
congressional election. The Whigs had rather the better chance of
winning their support, if the election of 1840 afforded any basis for
calculation, for the Mormons had then voted _en bloc_ for Harrison and
Tyler.[136] Stuart was a candidate for re-election. It was generally
believed that Ralston, whom the Democrats pitted against him, had
small chance of success. Still, Judge Douglas could be counted on to
use his influence to procure the Mormon vote.

Undeterred by his position on the bench, Douglas paid a friendly visit
to the Mormon city in the course of the campaign; and there
encountered his old Whig opponent, Cyrus Walker, Esq., who was also on
a mission. Both made public addresses of a flattering description. The
Prophet, Joseph Smith, was greatly impressed with Judge Douglas's
friendliness. "Judge Douglas," he wrote to the Faithful, "has ever
proved himself friendly to this people; and interested himself to
obtain for us our several charters, holding at the same time the
office of Secretary of State." But what particularly flattered the
Mormon leader, was the edifying spectacle of representatives from
both parties laying aside all partisan motives to mingle with the
Saints, as "brothers, citizens, and friends."[137] This touching
account would do for Mormon readers, but Gentiles remained somewhat

In spite of this coquetting with the Saints, the Democratic candidate
suffered defeat. It was observed with alarm that the Mormons held the
balance of power in the district, and might even become a makeweight
in the State elections, should they continue to increase in
numbers.[138] The Democrats braced themselves for a new trial of
strength in the gubernatorial contest. The call for a State convention
was obeyed with alacrity;[139] and the outcome justified the high
expectations which were entertained of this body. The convention
nominated for governor, Adam W. Snyder, whose peculiar availability
consisted in his having fathered the Judiciary Bill and the several
acts which had been passed in aid of the Mormons. The practical wisdom
of this nomination was proved by a communication of Joseph Smith to
the official newspaper of Nauvoo. The pertinent portion of this
remarkable manifesto read as follows: "The partisans in this county
who expected to divide the friends of humanity and equal rights will
find themselves mistaken,--we care not a fig for _Whig or Democrat_:
they are both alike to us; but we shall go for our _friends_, our
TRIED FRIENDS, and the cause of _human liberty_ which is the cause of
God.... DOUGLASS is a _Master Spirit_, and _his friends are our
friends_--we are willing to cast our banners on the air, and fight by
his side in the cause of humanity, and equal rights--the cause of
liberty and the law. SNYDER and MOORE, are _his_ friends--they are
_ours_.... Snyder, and Moore, are _known_ to be our friends; their
friendship is _vouched_ for by those whom we have tried. We will never
be justly charged with the sin of ingratitude--they _have_ served us,
and we _will_ serve them."[140]

This was a discomfiting revelation to the Whigs, who had certainly
labored as industriously as the Democrats, to placate the Saints of
Nauvoo. From this moment the Whigs began a crusade against the
Mormons, who were already, it is true, exhibiting the characteristics
which had made them odious to the people of Missouri.[141] Rightly or
wrongly, public opinion was veering; and the shrewd Duncan, who headed
the Whig ticket, openly charged Douglas with bargaining for the Mormon
vote.[142] The Whigs hoped that their opponents, having sowed the
wind, would reap the whirlwind.

Only three months before the August elections of 1844, the Democrats
were thrown into consternation by the death of Snyder, their
standard-bearer. Here was an emergency to which the convention system
was not equal, in the days of poor roads and slow stage-coaches. What
happened was this, to borrow the account of the chief Democratic
organ, "A large number of Democratic citizens from almost all parts of
the State of Illinois met together by a general and public call"--and
nominated Judge Thomas Ford for governor.[143] It adds significance to
this record to note that this numerous body of citizens met in the
snug office of the _State Register_. Democrats in distant parts of the
State were disposed to resent this action on the part of "the
Springfield clique"; but the onset of the enemy quelled mutiny. In one
way the nomination of Ford was opportune. It could not be said of him
that he had showed any particular solicitude for the welfare of the
followers of Joseph Smith.[144] The ticket could now be made to face
both ways. Ford could assure hesitating Democrats who disliked the
Mormons, that he had not hobnobbed with the Mormon leaders, while
Douglas and his crew could still demonstrate to the Prophet that the
cause of human liberty, for which he stood so conspicuously, was safe
in Democratic hands. The game was played adroitly. Ford carried
Hancock County by a handsome majority and was elected governor.[145]

It has already been remarked that as judge, Douglas was potentially a
candidate for almost any public office. He still kept in touch with
Springfield politicians, planning with them the moves and
counter-moves on the checker-board of Illinois politics. There was
more than a grain of truth in the reiterated charges of the Whig
press, that the Democratic party was dominated by an arbitrary
clique.[146] It was a matter of common observation, that before
Democratic candidates put to sea in the troubled waters of State
politics, they took their dead-reckoning from the office of the _State
Register_. It was noised abroad in the late fall that Douglas would
not refuse a positive call from his party to enter national politics;
and before the year closed, his Springfield intimates were actively
promoting his candidacy for the United States Senate, to succeed
Senator Young. This was an audacious move, since even if Young were
passed over, there were older men far more justly entitled to
consideration. Nevertheless, Douglas secured in some way the support
of several delegations in the legislature, so that on the first ballot
in the Democratic caucus he stood second, receiving only nine votes
less than Young. A protracted contest followed. Nineteen ballots were
taken. Douglas's chief competitor proved to be, not Young, but Breese,
who finally secured the nomination of the caucus by a majority of five
votes.[147] The ambition of Judge Douglas had overshot the mark.

In view of the young man's absorbing interest in politics, his slender
legal equipment, and the circumstances under which he received his
appointment, one wonders whether the courts he held could have been
anything but travesties on justice. But the universal testimony of
those whose memories go back so far, is that justice was on the whole
faithfully administered.[148] The conditions of life in Illinois were
still comparatively simple. The suits instituted at law were not such
as to demand profound knowledge of jurisprudence. The wide-spread
financial distress which followed the crisis of 1837, gave rise to
many processes to collect debts and to set aside fraudulent
conveyances. "Actions of slander and trespass for assault and battery,
engendered by the state of feeling incident to pecuniary
embarrassment, were frequent."[149]

The courts were in keeping with the meagre legal attainments of those
who frequented them. Rude frame, or log houses served the purposes of
bench and bar. The judge sat usually upon a platform with a plain
table, or pine board, for a desk. A larger table below accommodated
the attorneys who followed the judge in his circuit from county to
county. "The relations between the Bench and the Bar were free and
easy, and flashes of wit and humor and personal repartee were
constantly passing from one to the other. The court rooms in those
days were always crowded. To go to court and listen to the witnesses
and lawyers was among the chief amusements of the frontier
settlements."[150] In this little world, popular reputations were made
and unmade.

Judge Douglas was thoroughly at home in this primitive environment.
His freedom from affectation and false dignity recommended him to the
laity, while his fairness and good-nature put him in quick sympathy
with his legal brethren and their clients. Long years afterward, men
recalled the picture of the young judge as he mingled with the crowd
during a recess. "It was not unusual to see him come off the bench, or
leave his chair at the bar, and take a seat on the knee of a friend,
and with one arm thrown familiarly around a friend's neck, have a
friendly talk, or a legal or political discussion."[151] An attorney
recently from the East witnessed this familiarity with dismay. "The
judge of our circuit," he wrote, "is S.A. Douglas, a youth of 28....
He is a Vermonter, a man of considerable talent, and, in the way of
despatching business, is a perfect 'steam engine in breeches.' ... He
is the most democratic judge I ever knew.... I have often thought we
should cut a queer figure if one of our Suffolk bar should
accidentally drop in."[152]

Meantime, changes were taking place in the political map of Illinois,
which did not escape the watchful eye of Judge Douglas. By the census
of 1840, the State was entitled to seven, instead of four
representatives in Congress.[153] A reapportionment act was therefore
to be expected from the next legislature. Democrats were already at
work plotting seven Democratic districts on paper, for, with a
majority in the legislature, they could redistrict the State at will.
A gerrymander was the outcome.[154] If Douglas did not have a hand in
the reapportionment, at least his friends saw to it that a desirable
district was carved out, which included the most populous counties in
his circuit. Who would be a likelier candidate for Congress in this
Democratic constituency than the popular judge of the Fifth Circuit

Seven of the ten counties composing the Fifth Congressional District
were within the so-called "military tract," between the Mississippi
and Illinois rivers; three counties lay to the east on the lower
course of the Illinois. Into this frontier region population began to
flow in the twenties, from the Sangamo country; and the organization
of county after county attested the rapid expansion northward. Like
the people of southern Illinois, the first settlers were of Southern
extraction; but they were followed by Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and
New Englanders. In the later thirties, the Northern immigration, to
which Douglas belonged, gave a somewhat different complexion to
Peoria, Fulton, and other adjoining counties. Yet there were diverse
elements in the district: Peoria had a cosmopolitan population of
Irish, English, Scotch, and German immigrants; Quincy became a city of
refuge for "Young Germany," after the revolutionary disturbances of
1830 in Europe.[155]

No sooner had the reapportionment act passed than certain members of
the legislature, together with Democrats who held no office, took it
upon themselves to call a nominating convention, on a basis of
representation determined in an equally arbitrary fashion.[156] The
summons was obeyed nevertheless. Forty "respectable Democats"
assembled at Griggsville, in Pike County, on June 5, 1843. It was a
most satisfactory body. The delegates did nothing but what was
expected of them. On the second ballot, a majority cast their votes
for Douglas as the candidate of the party for Congress. The other
aspirants then graciously withdrew their claims, and pledged their
cordial support to the regular nominee of the convention.[157] Such
machine-like precision warmed the hearts of Democratic politicians.
The editor of the _People's Advocate_ declared the integrity of
Douglas to be "as unspotted as the vestal's fame--as untarnished and
as pure as the driven snow."

The Griggsville convention also supplied the requisite machinery for
the campaign: vigilant precinct committees; county committees; a
district corresponding committee; a central district committee. The
party now pinned its faith to the efficiency of its organization, as
well as to the popularity of its candidate.

Douglas made a show of declining the nomination on the score of
ill-health, but yielded to the urgent solicitations of friends, who
would fain have him believe that he was the only Democrat who could
carry the district.[158] Secretly pleased to be overruled, Douglas
burned his bridges behind him by resigning his office, and plunged
into the thick of the battle. His opponent was O.H. Browning, a
Kentuckian by birth and a Whig by choice. It was Kentucky against
Vermont, South against North, for neither was unwilling to appeal to
sectional prejudice. Time has obscured the political issues which they
debated from Peoria to Macoupin and back; but history has probably
suffered no great loss. Men, not measures, were at stake in this
campaign, for on the only national issue which they seemed to have
discussed--Oregon--they were in practical agreement.[159] Both
cultivated the little arts which relieve the tedium of politics.
Douglas talked in heart to heart fashion with his "esteemed
fellow-citizens," inquired for the health of their families, expressed
grief when he learned that John had the measles and that Sally was
down with the chills and fever.[160] And if Browning was less
successful in this gentle method of wooing voters, it was because he
had less genuine interest in the plain common people, not because he
despised the petty arts of the politician.

The canvass was short but exhausting. Douglas addressed public
gatherings for forty successive days; and when election day came, he
was prostrated by a fever from which he did not fully recover for
months.[161] Those who gerrymandered the State did their work well.
Only one district failed to elect a Democratic Congressman. Douglas
had a majority over Browning of four hundred and sixty-one votes.[162]
This cheering news hastened his convalescence, so that by November he
was able to visit his mother in Canandaigua. Member of Congress at the
age of thirty! He had every reason to be well satisfied with himself.
He was fully conscious that he had begun a new chapter in his career.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 118: Ford, History of Illinois, pp. 213-214.]

[Footnote 119: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, pp. 454-455.]

[Footnote 120: Why McClernand was passed over is not clear. Douglas
entered upon the duties of his office November 30, 1840.]

[Footnote 121: Wheeler, Biographical History of Congress, p. 74.]

[Footnote 122: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 43.]

[Footnote 123: Ford, History of Illinois, p. 217.]

[Footnote 124: _Ibid._, pp. 212-222.]

[Footnote 125: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, p. 456.]

[Footnote 126: Illinois _State Register_, January 29, 1841; Ford,
History of Illinois, p. 220.]

[Footnote 127: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, pp. 457-458.]

[Footnote 128: _Ibid._, pp. 457-458.]

[Footnote 129: Illinois _State Register_, February 5, 1841. Judge
Smith is put in an unenviable light by contemporary historians. There
seems to be no reason to doubt that he misinformed Douglas and others.
See Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, pp. 458-459.]

[Footnote 130: Chicago _American_, February 18, 1841.]

[Footnote 131: Sangamo _Journal_, March 19, 1841.]

[Footnote 132: Chicago _American_, February 18, 1841.]

[Footnote 133: Wheeler, Biographical History of Congress, p. 74.]

[Footnote 134: Ford, History of Illinois, pp. 263-265; Linn, Story of
the Mormons, pp. 236-237.]

[Footnote 135: Linn, Story of the Mormons, pp. 237-238.]

[Footnote 136: _Ibid._, p. 244.]

[Footnote 137: _Times and Seasons_, II, p. 414.]

[Footnote 138: Illinois _State Register_, August 13, 1841.]

[Footnote 139: _Ibid._, September 24, 1841.]

[Footnote 140: _Times and Seasons_, III, p. 651.]

[Footnote 141: Ford, History of Illinois, p. 269.]

[Footnote 142: Illinois _State Register_, June 17, 1842. Douglas
replied in a speech of equal tartness. See _Register_, July 1, 1842.]

[Footnote 143: Illinois _State Register_, June 10, 1842.]

[Footnote 144: Ford, History of Illinois, pp. 277-278.]

[Footnote 145: Gregg, History of Hancock County, p. 419.]

[Footnote 146: Illinois _State Register_, November 4, 1842.]

[Footnote 147: Illinois _State Register_, December 23, 1842.]

[Footnote 148: Conkling, Recollections of the Bench and Bar, Fergus
Historical Series, No. 22.]

[Footnote 149: Conkling, Recollections of the Bench and Bar, Fergus
Historical Series, No. 22]

[Footnote 150: Arnold, Reminiscences of the Illinois Bar, Fergus
Historical Series, No. 22.]

[Footnote 151: Arnold, Reminiscences of the Illinois Bar.]

[Footnote 152: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, p. 698.]

[Footnote 153: Statute of June 25, 1842.]

[Footnote 154: A sheet called _The Gerrymander_ was published in March
1843, which contained a series of cartoons exhibiting the
monstrosities of this apportionment. The Fifth District is called "the

[Footnote 155: Patterson, Early Society in Southern Illinois, Fergus
Historical Series No. 14; Körner, Das deutsche Element in den
Vereinigten Staaten, pp. 245, 277; Baker, America as the Political
Utopia of Young Germany; Peoria _Register_, June 30, 1838; Ballance,
History of Peoria, pp. 201-202.]

[Footnote 156: Illinois _State Register_, March 10, 1843.]

[Footnote 157: Illinois _State Register_, June 16, 1843.]

[Footnote 158: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 55; Wheeler, Biographical History
of Congress, p. 75.]

[Footnote 159: _Globe_, 28 Cong. 1 Sess. App. pp. 598 ff.]

[Footnote 160: Alton _Telegraph_, July 20, 1843.]

[Footnote 161: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 56; Wheeler, Biographical History
of Congress, p. 75; Alton _Telegraph_, August 26, 1843.]

[Footnote 162: According to the returns in the office of the Secretary
of State. The _Whig Almanac_ gives 451 as Douglas's majority.]



In his own constituency a member of the national House of
Representatives may be a marked man; but his office confers no
particular distinction at the national capital. He must achieve
distinction either by native talent or through fortuitous
circumstance; rarely is greatness thrust upon him. A newly elected
member labors under a peculiar and immediate necessity to acquire
importance, since the time of his probation is very brief. The
representative who takes his seat in December of the odd year, must
stand for re-election in the following year. Between these termini,
lies only a single session. During his absence eager rivals may be
undermining his influence at home, and the very possession of office
may weaken his chances among those disposed to consider rotation in
office a cardinal principle of democracy. If a newly elected
congressman wishes to continue in office, he is condemned to do
something great.

What qualities had Douglas which would single him out from the crowd
and impress his constituents with a sense of his capacity for public
service? What had he to offset his youth, his rawness, and his
legislative inexperience? None of his colleagues cared a fig about his
record in the Illinois Legislature and on the Bench. In Congress, as
then constituted, every man had to stand on his own feet, unsupported
by the dubious props of a local reputation.

There was certainly nothing commanding in the figure of the gentleman
from Illinois. "He had a herculean frame," writes a contemporary,
"with the exception of his lower limbs, which were short and small,
dwarfing what otherwise would have been a conspicuous figure.... His
large round head surmounted a massive neck, and his features were
symmetrical, although his small nose deprived them of dignity."[163]
It was his massive forehead, indeed, that redeemed his appearance from
the commonplace. Beneath his brow were deep-set, dark eyes that also
challenged attention.[164] It was not a graceful nor an attractive
exterior surely, but it was the very embodiment of force. Moreover,
the Little Giant had qualities of mind and heart that made men forget
his physical shortcomings. His ready wit, his suavity, and his
heartiness made him a general favorite almost at once.[165] He was
soon able to demonstrate his intellectual power.

The House was considering a bill to remit the fine imposed upon
General Andrew Jackson at New Orleans for contempt of court. It was a
hackneyed theme. No new, extenuating circumstances could be adduced to
clear the old warrior of high-handed conduct; but a presidential
election was approaching and there was political capital to be made by
defending "Old Hickory." From boyhood Douglas had idolized Andrew
Jackson. With much the same boyish indignation which led him to tear
down the coffin handbills in old Brandon, he now sprang to the defense
of his hero. The case had been well threshed already. Jackson had
been defended eloquently, and sometimes truthfully. A man of less
audacity would have hesitated to swell this tide of eloquence, and at
first, it seemed as though Douglas had little but vehemence to add to
the eulogies already pronounced. There was nothing novel in the
assertion that Jackson had neither violated the Constitution by
declaring martial law at New Orleans, nor assumed any authority which
was not "fully authorized and legalized by his position, his duty, and
the unavoidable necessity of the case." The House was used to these
dogmatic reiterations. But Douglas struck into untrodden ways when he
contended, that even if Jackson had violated the laws and the
Constitution, his condemnation for contempt of court was "unjust,
irregular and illegal." Every unlawful act is not necessarily a
contempt of court, he argued. "The doctrine of contempts only applies
to those acts which obstruct the proceedings of the court, and against
which the general laws of the land do not afford adequate
protection.... It is incumbent upon those who defend and applaud the
conduct of the judge to point out the specific act done by General
Jackson which constituted a contempt of court. The mere declaration of
martial law is not of that character.... It was a matter over which
the civil tribunals had no jurisdiction, and with which they had no
concern, unless some specific crime had been committed or injury done;
and not even then until it was brought before them according to the
forms of law."[166]

The old hero had never had a more adroit counsel. Like a good lawyer,
Douglas seemed to feel himself in duty bound to spar for every
technical advantage, and to construe the law, wherever possible, in
favor of his client. At the same time he did not forget that the House
was the jury in this case, and capable of human emotions upon which he
might play. At times he became declamatory beyond the point of good
taste. In voice and manner he betrayed the school in which he had been
trained. "When I hear gentlemen," he cried in strident tones,
"attempting to justify this unrighteous fine upon General Jackson upon
the ground of non-compliance with rules of court and mere formalities,
I must confess that I cannot appreciate the force of the argument. In
cases of war and desolation, in times of peril and disaster, we should
look at the substance and not the shadow of things. I envy not the
feelings of the man who can reason coolly and calmly about the force
of precedents and the tendency of examples in the fury of the war-cry,
when 'booty and beauty' is the watchword. Talk not to me about rules
and forms in court when the enemy's cannon are pointed at the door,
and the flames encircle the cupola! The man whose stoicism would
enable him to philosophize coolly under these circumstances would
fiddle while the Capitol was burning, and laugh at the horror and
anguish that surrounded him in the midst of the conflagration! I claim
not the possession of these remarkable feelings. I concede them all to
those who think that the savior of New Orleans ought to be treated
like a criminal for not possessing them in a higher degree. Their
course in this debate has proved them worthy disciples of the doctrine
they profess. Let them receive all the encomiums which such sentiments
are calculated to inspire."[167]

His closing words were marked with much the same perfervid rhetoric,
only less objectionable because they were charged with genuine
emotion: "Can gentlemen see nothing to admire, nothing to commend, in
the closing scenes, when, fresh from the battlefield, the victorious
general--the idol of his army and the acknowledged savior of his
countrymen--stood before Judge Hall, and quelled the tumult and
indignant murmurs of the multitude by telling him that 'the same arm
which had defended the city from the ravages of a foreign enemy should
protect him in the discharge of his duty?' Is this the conduct of a
lawless desperado, who delights in trampling upon Constitution, and
law, and right? Is there no reverence for the supremacy of the laws
and the civil institutions of the country displayed on this occasion?
If such acts of heroism and moderation, of chivalry and submission,
have no charms to excite the admiration or soften the animosities of
gentlemen in the Opposition, I have no desire to see them vote for
this bill. The character of the hero of New Orleans requires no
endorsement from such a source. They wish to fix a mark, a stigma of
reproach, upon his character, and send him to his grave branded as a
criminal. His stern, inflexible adherence to Democratic principles,
his unwavering devotion to his country, and his intrepid opposition to
her enemies, have so long thwarted their unhallowed schemes of
ambition and power, that they fear the potency of his name on earth,
even after his spirit shall have ascended to heaven."

"An eloquent, sophistical speech, prodigiously admired by the slave
Democracy of the House," was the comment of John Quincy Adams; words
of high praise, for the veteran statesman had little patience with
the style of oratory affected by this "homunculus."[168] A
correspondent of a Richmond newspaper wrote that this effort had given
Douglas high rank as a debater.[169] Evidence on every hand confirms
the impression that by a single, happy stroke the young Illinoisan had
achieved enviable distinction; but whether he had qualities which
would secure an enduring reputation, was still open to question.

In the long run, the confidence of party associates is the surest
passport to real influence in the House. It might easily happen,
indeed, that Douglas, with all his rough eloquence, would remain an
impotent legislator. The history of Congress is strewn with oratorical
derelicts, who have often edified their auditors, but quite as often
blocked the course of legislation. No one knew better than Douglas,
that only as he served his party, could he hope to see his wishes
crystallize into laws, and his ambitions assume the guise of reality.
His opportunity to render effective service came also in this first

Four States had neglected to comply with the recent act of Congress
reapportioning representation, having elected their twenty-one members
by general ticket. The language of the statute was explicit: "In every
case where a State is entitled to more than one Representative, the
number to which each State shall be entitled under this apportionment
shall be elected by districts composed of contiguous territory equal in
number to the number of Representatives, to which said State may be
entitled, no one district electing more than one Representative."[170]
Now all but two of these twenty-one Representatives were Democrats.
Would a Democratic majority punish this flagrant transgression of
Federal law by unseating the offenders?

In self-respect the Democratic members of the House could not do less
than appoint a committee to investigate whether the representatives in
question had been elected "in conformity to the Constitution and the
law."[171] Thereupon it devolved upon the six Democratic members of
this committee of nine to construct a theory, by which they might seat
their party associates under cover of legality. Not that they held
_any_ such explicit mandate from the party, nor that they deliberately
went to work to pervert the law; they were simply under psychological
pressure from which only men of the severest impartiality could free
themselves. The work of drafting the majority report (it was a
foregone conclusion that the committee would divide), fell to Douglas.
It pronounced the law of 1842 "not a _law_ made in pursuance of the
Constitution of the United States, and valid, operative, and binding
upon the States." Accordingly, the representatives of the four States
in question were entitled to their seats.

By what process of reasoning had Douglas reached this conclusion? The
report directed its criticism chiefly against the second section of
the Act of 1842, which substituted the district for the general ticket
in congressional elections. The Constitution provides that "the Times,
Places, and Manner of holding elections for Senators and
Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature
thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such
Regulations." But by the law of 1842, contended the report, Congress
had only partially exercised its power, and had attempted "to subvert
the entire system of legislation adopted by the several States of the
Union, and to compel them to conform to certain rules established by
Congress for their government." Congress "may" make or alter such
regulations, but "the right to change State laws or to enact others
which shall suspend them, does not imply the right to compel the State
legislatures to make such change or new enactments." Congress may
exercise the privilege of making such regulations, only when the State
legislatures refuse to act, or act in a way to subvert the
Constitution. If Congress acts at all in fixing times, places, and
manner of elections, it must act exhaustively, leaving nothing for the
State legislatures to do. The Act of 1842 was general in its nature,
and inoperative without State legislation. The history of the
Constitutional Convention of 1787 was cited to prove that it was
generally understood that Congress would exercise this power only in a
few specified cases.[172]

Replying to the attacks which this report evoked, Douglas took still
higher ground. He was ready to affirm that Congress had no power to
district the States. To concede to Congress so great a power was to
deny those reserved rights of the States, without which their
sovereignty would be an empty title. "Congress may alter, but it
cannot supersede these regulations [of the States] till it supplies
others in their places, so as to leave the right of representation

The argument of the report was bold and ingenious, if not convincing.
The minority were ready to admit that the case had been cleverly
stated, although hardly a man doubted that political considerations
had weighed most heavily with the chairman of the committee. Douglas
resented the suggestion with such warmth, however, that it is
charitable to suppose he was not conscious of the bias under which he
had labored.

Upon one auditor, who to be sure was inexpressibly bored by the whole
discussion of the "everlasting general ticket elections," Douglas made
an unhappy impression. John Quincy Adams recorded in his diary,--that
diary which was becoming a sort of Rogues' Gallery: "He now raved out
his hour in abusive invectives upon the members who had pointed out
its slanders and upon the Whig party. His face was convulsed, his
gesticulation frantic, and he lashed himself into such a heat that if
his body had been made of combustible matter, it would have burnt out.
In the midst of his roaring, to save himself from choking, he stripped
off and cast away his cravat, and unbuttoned his waist-coat, and had
the air and aspect of a half-naked pugilist. And this man comes from a
judicial bench, and passes for an eloquent orator."[174]

No one will mistake this for an impartial description. Nearly every
Democrat who spoke upon this tedious question, according to Adams,
either "raved" or "foamed at the mouth." The old gentleman was too
wearied and disgusted with the affair to be a fair reporter. But as a
caricature, this picture of the young man from Illinois certainly hits
off the style which he affected, in common with most Western orators.

Notwithstanding his very substantial services to his party, Douglas
had sooner or later to face his constituents with an answer to the
crucial question, "What have you done for us?" It is a hard, brutal
question, which has blighted many a promising career in American
politics. The interest which Douglas exhibited in the Western Harbors
bill was due, in part at least, to his desire to propitiate those by
virtue of whose suffrages he was a member of the House of
Representatives. At the same time, he was no doubt sincerely devoted
to the measure, because he believed profoundly in its national
character. Local and national interests were so inseparable in his
mind, that he could urge the improvement of the Illinois River as a
truly national undertaking. "Through this channel, and this alone," he
declared all aglow with enthusiasm, "we have a connected and
uninterrupted navigation for steamboats and large vessels from the
Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, to all the northern lakes."
Considerations of war and defense, as well as of peace and commerce,
counselled the proposed expenditure. "We have no fleet upon the lakes;
we have no navy-yard there at which we could construct one, and no
channel through which we could introduce our vessels from the
sea-board. In times of war, those lakes must be defended, if defended
at all, by a fleet from the naval depot and a yard on the Mississippi
River." After the State of Illinois had expended millions on the
Illinois and Michigan canal, was Congress to begrudge a few thousands
to remove the sand-bars which impeded navigation in this "national
highway by an irrevocable ordinance"?[175]

This special plea for the Illinois River was prefaced by a lengthy
exposition of Democratic doctrine respecting internal improvements,
for it was incumbent upon every good Democrat to explain a measure
which seemed to countenance a broad construction of the powers of the
Federal government. Douglas was at particular pains to show that the
bill did not depart from the principles laid down in President
Jackson's famous Maysville Road veto-message.[176] To him Jackson
incarnated the party faith; and his public documents were a veritable,
political testament. In the art of reading consistency into his own,
or the conduct of another, Douglas had no equal. To the end of his
days he possessed in an extraordinary degree the subtle power of
redistributing emphasis so as to produce a desired effect. It was the
most effective and the most insidious of his many natural gifts, for
it often won immediate ends at the permanent sacrifice of his
reputation for candor and veracity. The immediate result of this essay
in interpretation of Jacksonian principles, was to bring down upon
Douglas's devoted head the withering charge, peculiarly blighting to a
budding statesman, that he was conjuring with names to the exclusion
of arguments. With biting sarcasm, Representative Holmes drew
attention to the gentleman's disposition, after the fashion of little
men, to advance to the fray under the seven-fold shield of the
Telamon Ajax--a classical allusion which was altogether lost on the
young man from Illinois.

The appropriation for the Illinois River was stricken from the Western
Harbors bill much to Douglas's regret.[177] Still, he had evinced a
genuine concern for the interests of his constituents and his reward
was even now at hand. Early in the year the Peoria _Press_ had
recommended a Democratic convention to nominate a candidate for
Congress.[178] The _State Register_, and other journals friendly to
Douglas, took up the cry, giving the movement thus all the marks of
spontaneity. The Democratic organization was found to be intact; the
convention was held early in May at Pittsfield; and the Honorable
Stephen A. Douglas was unanimously re-nominated for Representative to
Congress from the Fifth Congressional District.[179]

Soon after this well-ordered convention in the little Western town of
Pittsfield, came the national convention of the Democratic party at
Baltimore, where the unexpected happened. To Douglas, as to the rank
and file of the party, the selection of Polk must have come as a
surprise; but whatever predilections he may have had for another
candidate, were speedily suppressed.[180] With the platform, at least,
he found himself in hearty accord; and before the end of the session
he convinced his associates on the Democratic side of the House, that
he was no lukewarm supporter of the ticket.

While the Civil and Diplomatic Appropriations bill was under
discussion in the House, a desultory debate occurred on the politics
of Colonel Polk. Such digressions were not unusual on the eve of a
presidential election. Seizing the opportunity, Douglas obtained
recognition from the Speaker and launched into a turgid speech in
defence of Polk, "the standard-bearer of Democracy and freedom." It
had been charged that Colonel Polk was "the industrious follower of
Andrew Jackson." Douglas turned the thrust neatly by asserting, "He is
emphatically a Young Hickory--the unwavering friend of Old Hickory in
all his trials--his bosom companion--his supporter and defender on all
occasions, in public and private, from his early boyhood until the
present moment. No man living possessed General Jackson's confidence
in a greater degree.... That he has been the industrious follower of
General Jackson in those glorious contests for the defence of his
country's rights, will not be deemed the unpardonable sin by the
American people, so long as their hearts beat and swell with gratitude
to their great benefactor. He is the very man for the times--a 'chip
of the old block'--of the true hickory stump. The people want a man
whose patriotism, honesty, ability, and devotion to democratic
principles, have been tested and tried in the most stormy times of the
republic, and never found wanting. That man is James K. Polk of

There could be no better evidence that Douglas felt sure of his own
fences, than his willingness to assist in the general campaign outside
of his own district and State. He not only addressed a mass-meeting of
delegates from many Western States at Nashville, Tennessee,[182] but
journeyed to St. Louis and back again, in the service of the
Democratic Central Committee, speaking at numerous points along the
way with gratifying success, if we may judge from the grateful words
of appreciation in the Democratic press.[183] It was while he was in
attendance on the convention in Nashville that he was brought face to
face with Andrew Jackson. The old hero was then living in retirement
at the Hermitage. Thither, as to a Mecca, all good Democrats turned
their faces after the convention. Douglas received from the old man a
greeting which warmed the cockles of his heart, and which, duly
reported by the editor of the Illinois _State Register_, who was his
companion, was worth many votes at the cross-roads of Illinois. The
scene was described as follows:

"Governor Clay, of Alabama, was near General Jackson, who was himself
sitting on a sofa in the hall, and as each person entered, the
governor introduced him to the hero and he passed along. When Judge
Douglas was thus introduced, General Jackson raised his still
brilliant eyes and gazed for a moment in the countenance of the judge,
still retaining his hand. 'Are you the Mr. Douglas, of Illinois, who
delivered a speech last session on the subject of the fine imposed on
me for declaring martial law at New Orleans?'" asked General Jackson.

"'I have delivered a speech in the House of Representatives upon that
subject,' was the modest reply of our friend.

"'Then stop,' said General Jackson; 'sit down here beside me. I desire
to return you my thanks for that speech. You are the first man that
has ever relieved my mind on a subject which has rested upon it for
thirty years. My enemies have always charged me with violating the
Constitution of my country by declaring martial law at New Orleans,
and my friends have always admitted the violation, but have contended
that circumstances justified me in that violation. I never could
understand how it was that the performance of a solemn duty to my
country--a duty which, if I had neglected, would have made me a
traitor in the sight of God and man, could properly be pronounced a
violation of the Constitution. I felt convinced in my own mind that I
was not guilty of such a heinous offense; but I could never make out a
legal justification of my course, nor has it ever been done, sir,
until you, on the floor of Congress, at the late session, established
it beyond the possibility of cavil or doubt. I thank you, sir, for
that speech. It has relieved my mind from the only circumstance that
rested painfully upon it. Throughout my whole life I never performed
an official act which I viewed as a violation of the Constitution of
my country; and I can now go down to the grave in peace, with the
perfect consciousness that I have not broken, at any period of my
life, the Constitution or laws of my country.'

"Thus spoke the old hero, his countenance brightened by emotions which
it is impossible for us to describe. We turned to look at Douglas--he
was speechless. He could not reply, but convulsively shaking the aged
veteran's hand, he rose and left the hall. Certainly General Jackson
had paid him the highest compliment he could have bestowed on any

When the August elections had come and gone, Douglas found himself
re-elected by a majority of fourteen hundred votes and by a plurality
over his Whig opponent of more than seventeen hundred.[185] He was to
have another opportunity to serve his constituents; but the question
was still open, whether his talents were only those of an adroit
politician intent upon his own advancement, or those of a statesman,
capable of conceiving generous national policies which would efface
the eager ambitions of the individual and the grosser ends of party.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 163: Poore, Reminiscences, I, pp. 316-317.]

[Footnote 164: Joseph Wallace in the Illinois _State Register_, April
19, 1885.]

[Footnote 165: Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men, 1, p. 146.]

[Footnote 166: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 44.]

[Footnote 167: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 45.]

[Footnote 168: J.Q. Adams, Memoirs, XI, p. 478.]

[Footnote 169: Richmond _Enquirer_, Jan. 6, 1844.]

[Footnote 170: Act of June 25, 1842; United States Statutes at Large,
V, p. 491.]

[Footnote 171: December 14, 1843. _Globe_, 28 Cong. I Sess. p. 36.]

[Footnote 172: Niles' _Register_, Vol. 65, pp. 393-396.]

[Footnote 173: _Globe_, 28 Cong. I Sess. pp. 276-277.]

[Footnote 174: J.Q. Adams, Memoirs, XI, p. 510.]

[Footnote 175: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 549-550. For the trend
of public opinion in the district which Douglas represented, see
Peoria _Register,_ September 21, 1839.]

[Footnote 176: _Globe,_28 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 527-528]

[Footnote 177: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 534.]

[Footnote 178: Illinois _State Register_, February 9, 1844.]

[Footnote 179: _Ibid._, May 17, 1844.]

[Footnote 180: It was intimated that he had at first aided Tyler in
his forlorn hope of a second term.]

[Footnote 181: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 598 ff.]

[Footnote 182: Illinois _State Register_, August 30, 1844.]

[Footnote 183: _Ibid._, September 27, 1844.]

[Footnote 184: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 70-71.]

[Footnote 185: Official returns in the office of the Secretary of



The defeat of President Tyler's treaty in June, 1844, just on the eve
of the presidential campaign, gave the Texas question an importance
which the Democrats in convention had not foreseen, when they inserted
the re-annexation plank in the platform. The hostile attitude of Whig
senators and of Clay himself toward annexation, helped to make Texas a
party issue. While it cannot be said that Polk was elected on this
issue alone, there was some plausibility in the statement of President
Tyler, that "a controlling majority of the people, and a majority of
the States, have declared in favor of immediate annexation." At all
events, when Congress reassembled, President Tyler promptly acted on
this supposition. In his annual message, and again in a special
message a fortnight later, he urged "prompt and immediate action on
the subject of annexation." Since the two governments had already
agreed on terms of annexation, he recommended their adoption by
Congress "in the form of a joint resolution, or act, to be perfected
and made binding on the two countries, when adopted in like manner by
the government of Texas."[186] A policy which had not been able to
secure the approval of two-thirds of the Senate was now to be endorsed
by a majority of both houses. In short, a legislative treaty was to be
enacted by Congress.

The Hon. Stephen A. Douglas had taken his seat in the House with
augmented self-assurance. He had not only secured his re-election and
the success of his party in Illinois, but he had served most
acceptably as a campaign speaker in Polk's own State. Surely he was
entitled to some consideration in the councils of his party. In the
appointment of standing committees, he could hardly hope for a
chairmanship. It was reward enough to be made a member of the
Committee of Elections and of the Committee on the Judiciary. On the
paramount question before this Congress, he entertained strong
convictions, which he had no hesitation in setting forth in a series
of resolutions, while older members were still feeling their way. The
preamble of these "Joint Resolutions for the annexation of Texas" was
in itself a little stump speech: "Whereas the treaty of 1803 had
provided that the people of Texas should be incorporated into the
Union and admitted as soon as possible to citizenship, and whereas the
present inhabitants have signified their willingness to be re-annexed;
therefore".... Particular interest attaches to the Eighth Resolution
which proposed to extend the Missouri Compromise line through Texas,
"inasmuch as the compromise had been made prior to the treaty of 1819,
by which Texas was ceded to Spain."[187] The resolutions never
commanded any support worth mentioning, attention being drawn to the
joint resolution of the Committee on Foreign Affairs which was known
to have the sanction of the President. The proposal of Douglas to
settle the matter of slavery in Texas in the act of annexation itself,
was perhaps his only contribution to the discussion of ways and
means. An aggressive Southern group of representatives readily caught
up the suggestion.

The debate upon the joint resolution was well under way before Douglas
secured recognition from the Speaker. The opposition was led by
Winthrop of Massachusetts and motived by reluctance to admit slave
territory, as well as by constitutional scruples regarding the process
of annexation by joint resolution. Douglas spoke largely in rejoinder
to Winthrop. A clever retort to Winthrop's reference to "this odious
measure devised for sinister purposes by a President not elected by
the people," won for Douglas the good-natured attention of the House.
It was President Adams and not President Tyler, Douglas remonstrated,
who had first opened negotiations for annexation; but perhaps the
gentleman from Massachusetts intended to designate his colleague, Mr.
Adams, when he referred to "a president not elected by the
people"![188] Moreover, it was Mr. Adams, who as Secretary of State
had urged our claims to all the country as far as the Rio del Norte,
under the Treaty of 1803. In spite of these just boundary claims and
our solemn promise to admit the inhabitants of the Louisiana purchase
to citizenship, we had violated that pledge by ceding Texas to Spain
in 1819. These people had protested against this separation, only a
few months after the signing of the treaty; they now asked us to
redeem our ancient pledge. Honor and violated faith required the
immediate annexation of Texas.[189] Had Douglas known, or taken pains
to ascertain, who these people were, who protested against the treaty
of 1819, he would hardly have wasted his commiseration upon them.
Enough: the argument served his immediate purpose.

To those who contended that Congress had no power to annex territory
with a view to admitting new States, Douglas replied that the
Constitution not only grants specific powers to Congress, but also
general power to pass acts necessary and proper to carry out the
specific powers. Congress may admit new States, but in the present
instance Congress cannot exercise that power without annexing
territory. "The annexation of Texas is a prerequisite without the
performance of which Texas cannot be admitted."[190] The Constitution
does not state that the President and Senate may admit new States, nor
that they shall make laws for the acquisition of territory in order to
enable Congress to admit new States. The Constitution declares
explicitly, "_Congress_ may admit new States." "When the grant of
power is to Congress, the authority to pass all laws necessary to its
execution is also in Congress; and the treaty-making power is to be
confined to those cases where the power is not located elsewhere by
the Constitution."[191]

With those weaklings who feared lest the extension of the national
domain should react unfavorably upon our institutions, and who
apprehended war with Mexico, Douglas had no patience. The States of
the Union were already drawn closer together than the thirteen
original States in the first years of the Union, because of the
improved means of communication. Transportation facilities were now
multiplying more rapidly than population. "Our federal system," he
exclaimed, with a burst of jingoism that won a round of applause from
Western Democrats as he resumed his seat, "Our federal system is
admirably adapted to the whole continent; and, while I would not
violate the laws of nations, nor treaty stipulations, nor in any
manner tarnish the national honor, I would exert all legal and
honorable means to drive Great Britain and the last vestiges of royal
authority from the continent of North America, and extend the limits
of the republic from ocean to ocean. I would make this an ocean-bound
republic, and have no more disputes about boundaries, or 'red lines'
upon the maps."[192]

In this speech there was one notable omission. The slavery question
was not once touched upon. Those who have eyes only to see plots
hatched by the slave power in national politics, are sure to construe
this silence as part of an ignoble game. It is possible that Douglas
purposely evaded this question; but it does not by any means follow
that he was deliberately playing into the hands of Southern leaders.
The simple truth is, that it was quite possible in the early forties
for men, in all honesty, to ignore slavery, because they regarded it
either as a side issue or as no issue at all. It was quite possible to
think on large national policies without confusing them with slavery.
Men who shared with Douglas the pulsating life of the Northwest wanted
Texas as a "theater for enterprise and industry." As an Ohio
representative said, they desired "a West for their sons and daughters
where they would be free from family influences, from associated
wealth and from those thousand things which in the old settled country
have the tendency of keeping down the efforts and enterprises of
young people." The hearts of those who, like Douglas, had carved out
their fortunes in the new States, responded to that sentiment in a way
which neither a John Quincy Adams nor a Winthrop could understand.

Yet the question of slavery in the proposed State of Texas was thrust
upon the attention of Congress by the persistent tactics of Alexander
H. Stephens and a group of Southern associates. They refused to accept
all terms of annexation which did not secure the right of States
formed south of the Missouri Compromise line to come into the Union
with slavery, if they desired to do so.[193] Douglas met this
opposition with the suggestion that not more than three States besides
Texas should be created out of the new State, but that such States
should be admitted into the Union with or without slavery, as the
people of each should determine, at the time of their application to
Congress for admission. As the germ of the doctrine of Popular
Sovereignty, this resolution has both a personal and a historic
interest. While it failed to pass,[194] it suggested to Stephens and
his friends a mode of adjustment which might satisfy all sides. It was
at his suggestion that Milton Brown of Tennessee proposed resolutions
providing for the admission of not more than four States besides
Texas, out of the territory acquired. If these States should be formed
south of the Missouri Compromise line, they were to be admitted with
or without slavery, as the people of each should determine. Northern
men demurred, but Douglas saved the situation by offering as an
amendment, "And in such States as shall be formed north of said
Missouri Compromise line, slavery or involuntary servitude, except for
crime, shall be prohibited."[195] The amendment was accepted, and thus
amended, the joint resolution passed by an ample margin of votes. In
view of later developments, this extension of the Missouri Compromise
line is a point of great significance in the career of Douglas.

Not long after Douglas had voiced his vision of "an ocean-bound
republic," he was called upon to assist one of the most remarkable
emigrations westward, from his own State. The Mormons in Hancock
County had become the most undesirable of neighbors to his
constituents. Once the allies of the Democrats, they were now held in
detestation by all Gentiles of adjoining counties, irrespective of
political affiliations. The announcement of the doctrine of polygamy
by the Prophet Smith had been accompanied by acts of defiance and
followed by depredations, which, while not altogether unprovoked,
aroused the non-Mormons to a dangerous pitch of excitement. In the
midst of general disorder in Hancock County, Joseph Smith was
murdered. Every deed of violence was now attributed to the Danites, as
the members of the militant order of the Mormon Church styled
themselves. Early in the year 1845, the Nauvoo Charter was repealed;
and Governor Ford warned his quondam friends confidentially that they
had better betake themselves westward, suggesting California as "a
field for the prettiest enterprise that has been undertaken in modern
times." Disgraceful outrages filled the summer months of 1845 in
Hancock County. A band of Mormon-haters ravaged the county, burning
houses, barns, and grain stacks, and driving unprotected Mormon
settlers into Nauvoo. To put an end to this state of affairs, Governor
Ford sent Judge Douglas and Attorney-General McDougal, with a force of
militia under the command of General Hardin, into Hancock County.
Public meetings in all the adjoining counties were now demanding the
expulsion of the Mormons in menacing language.[196] While General
Hardin issued a proclamation bidding Mormons and anti-Mormons to
desist from further violence, and promised that his scanty force of
four hundred would enforce the laws impartially, the commissioners
entered into negotiations with the Mormon authorities. On the pressing
demand of the commissioners and of a deputation from the town of
Quincy, Brigham Young announced that the Mormons purposed to leave
Illinois in the spring, "for some point so remote that there will not
need to be a difficulty with the people and ourselves."

There can be little doubt that Douglas's advice weighed heavily with
the Mormons. As a judge, he had administered the law impartially
between Mormon and non-Mormon; and this was none too common in the
civic history of the Mormon Church. As an aspirant for office, he had
frankly courted their suffrages; but times had changed. The reply of
the commissioners, though not unkindly worded, contained some
wholesome advice. "We think that steps should be taken by you to make
it apparent that you are actually preparing to remove in the spring.
By carrying out, in good faith, your proposition to remove, as
submitted to us, we think you should be, and will be, permitted to
depart peaceably next spring for your destination, west of the Rocky
Mountains.... We recommend to you to place every possible restraint in
your power over the members of your church, to prevent them from
committing acts of aggression or retaliation on any citizens of the
State, as a contrary course may, and most probably will, bring about a
collision which will subvert all efforts to maintain the peace in this
county; and we propose making a similar request of your opponents in
this and the surrounding counties."[197]

Announcing the result of their negotiations to the anti-Mormon people
of Hancock County, the commissioners gave equally good advice:
"Remember, whatever may be the aggression against you, the sympathy of
the public may be forfeited. It cannot be denied that the burning of
the houses of the Mormons ... was an act criminal in itself, and
disgraceful to its perpetrators.... A resort to, or persistence in,
such a course under existing circumstances will make you forfeit all
the respect and sympathy of the community."

Unhappily this advice was not long heeded by either side. While
Douglas was giving his vote for men and money for the Mexican War and
the gallant Hardin was serving his country in command of a regiment,
"the last Mormon war" broke out, which culminated in the siege and
evacuation of Nauvoo. Passing westward into No-man's-land, the Mormons
became eventually the founders of one of the Territories by which
Douglas sought to span the continent.

It was only in the Northwest that the cry for the re-occupation of
Oregon had the ring of sincerity; elsewhere it had been thought of as
a response to the re-annexation of Texas,--more or less of a
vote-catching device. The sentiment in Douglas's constituency was
strongly in favor of an aggressive policy in Oregon. The first band of
Americans to go thither, for the single purpose of settlement and
occupation, set out from Peoria.[198] These were "young men of the
right sort," in whom the eternal _Wanderlust_ of the race had been
kindled by tales of returned missionaries. Public exercises were held
on their departure, and the community sanctioned this outflow of its
youthful strength. Dwellers in the older communities of the East had
little sympathy with this enterprise. It was ill-timed, many hundred
years in advance of the times. Why emigrate from a region but just
reclaimed from barbarism, where good land was still abundant?[199]
Perhaps it was in reply to such doubts that an Illinois rhymester bade
his New England brother

    "Scan the opening glories of the West,
      Her boundless prairies and her thousand streams,
    The swarming millions who will crowd her breast,
      'Mid scenes enchanting as a poet's dreams:
    And then bethink you of your own stern land,
      Where ceaseless toil will scarce a pittance earn,
    And gather quickly to a hopeful band,--
      Say parting words,--and to the westward turn."[200]

Douglas tingled to his fingers' ends with the sentiment expressed in
these lines. The prospect of forfeiting this Oregon country,--this
greater Northwest,--to Great Britain, stirred all the belligerent
blood in his veins. Had it fallen to him to word the Democratic
platform, he would not have been able to choose a better phrase than
"re-occupation of Oregon." The elemental jealousy and hatred of the
Western pioneer for the claim-jumper found its counterpart in his
hostile attitude toward Great Britain. He was equally fearful lest a
low estimate of the value of Oregon should make Congress indifferent
to its future. He had endeavored to have Congress purchase copies of
Greenhow's _History of the Northwest Coast of North America_, so that
his colleagues might inform themselves about this El Dorado.[201]

There was, indeed, much ignorance about Oregon, in Congress and out.
To the popular mind Oregon was the country drained by the Columbia
River, a vast region on the northwest coast. As defined by the
authority whom Douglas summoned to the aid of his colleagues, Oregon
was the territory west of the Rocky Mountains between the parallels of
42° and 54° 40' north latitude.[202] Treaties between Russia and Great
Britain, and between Russia and the United States, had fixed the
southern boundary of Russian territory on the continent at 54° 40'; a
treaty between the United States and Spain had given the forty-second
parallel as the northern boundary of the Spanish possessions; and a
joint treaty of occupation between Great Britain and the United States
in 1818,--renewed in 1827,--had established a _modus vivendi_ between
the rival claimants, which might be terminated by either party on
twelve months' notice. Meantime Great Britain and the United States
were silent competitors for exclusive ownership of the mainland and
islands between Spanish and Russian America. Whether the technical
questions involved in these treaties were so easily dismissed, was
something that did not concern the resolute expansionist. It was
enough for him that, irrespective of title derived from priority of
discovery, the United States had, as Greenhow expressed it, a stronger
"national right," by virtue of the process by which their people were
settling the Mississippi Valley and the great West. This was but
another way of stating the theory of manifest destiny.

No one knew better than Douglas that paper claims lost half their
force unless followed up by vigorous action. Priority of occupation
was a far better claim than priority of discovery. Hence, the
government must encourage actual settlement on the Oregon. Two
isolated bills that Douglas submitted to Congress are full of
suggestion, when connected by this thought: one provided for the
establishment of the territory of Nebraska;[203] the other, for the
establishment of military posts in the territories of Nebraska and
Oregon, to protect the commerce of the United States with New Mexico
and California, as well as emigration to Oregon.[204] Though neither
bill seems to have received serious consideration, both were to be
forced upon the attention of Congress in after years by their
persistent author.

A bill had already been reported by the Committee on Territories,
boldly extending the government of the United States over the whole
disputed area.[205] Conservatives in both parties deprecated such
action as both hasty and unwise, in view of negotiations then in
progress; but the Hotspurs would listen to no prudential
considerations. Sentiments such as those expressed by Morris of
Pennsylvania irritated them beyond measure. Why protect this wandering
population in Oregon? he asked. Let them take care of themselves; or
if they cannot protect themselves, let the government defend them
during the period of their infancy, and then let them form a republic
of their own. He did not wish to imperil the Union by crossing
barriers beyond which nature had intended that we should not go.

This frank, if not cynical, disregard of the claims of American
emigrants,--"wandering and unsettled" people, Morris had called
them,--brought Douglas to his feet. Memories of a lad who had himself
once been a wanderer from the home of his fathers, spurred him to
resent this thinly veiled contempt for Western emigrants and the part
which they were manfully playing in the development of the West. The
gentleman should say frankly, retorted Douglas, that he is desirous of
dissolving the Union. Consistency should force him to take the ground
that our Union must be dissolved and divided up into various, separate
republics by the Alleghanies, the Green and the White Mountains.
Besides, to cede the territory of Oregon to its inhabitants would be
tantamount to ceding it to Great Britain. He, for one, would never
yield an inch of Oregon either to Great Britain or any other
government. He looked forward to a time when Oregon would become a
considerable member of the great American family of States. Wait for
the issue of the negotiations now pending? When had negotiations not
been pending! Every man in his senses knew that there was no hope of
getting the country by negotiation. He was for erecting a government
on this side of the Rockies, extending our settlements under military
protection, and then establishing the territorial government of
Oregon. Facilitate the means of communication across the Rocky
Mountains, and let the people there know and feel that they are a part
of the government of the United States, and under its protection; that
was his policy.

As for Great Britain: she had already run her network of possessions
and fortifications around the United States. She was intriguing for
California, and for Texas, and she had her eye on Cuba; she was
insidiously trying to check the growth of republican institutions on
this continent and to ruin our commerce. "It therefore becomes us to
put this nation in a state of defense; and when we are told that this
will lead to war, all I have to say is this, violate no treaty
stipulations, nor any principle of the law of nations; preserve the
honor and integrity of the country, but, at the same time, assert our
right to the last inch, and then, if war comes, let it come. We may
regret the necessity which produced it, but when it does come, I would
administer to our citizens Hannibal's oath of eternal enmity, and not
terminate the war until the question was settled forever. I would blot
out the lines on the map which now mark our national boundaries on
this continent, and make the area of liberty as broad as the continent
itself. I would not suffer petty rival republics to grow up here,
engendering jealousy of each other, and interfering with each other's
domestic affairs, and continually endangering their peace. I do not
wish to go beyond the great ocean--beyond those boundaries which the
God of nature has marked out, I would limit myself only by that
boundary which is so clearly defined by nature."[206]

The vehemence of these words startled the House, although it was not
the only belligerent speech on the Oregon question. Cooler heads, like
J.Q. Adams, who feared the effect of such imprudent utterances falling
upon British ears, remonstrated at the unseemly haste with which the
bill was being "driven through" the House, and counselled with all the
weight of years against the puerility of provoking war in this
fashion. But the most that could be accomplished in the way of
moderation was an amendment, which directed the President to give
notice of the termination of our joint treaty of occupation with Great
Britain. This precaution proved to be unnecessary, as the Senate
failed to act upon the bill.

No one expected from the new President any masterful leadership of the
people as a whole or of his party. Few listened with any marked
attention, therefore, to his inaugural address. His references to
Texas and Oregon were in accord with the professions of the Democratic
party, except possibly at one point, which was not noted at the time
but afterward widely commented upon. "Our title to the country of the
Oregon," said he, "is clear and unquestionable." The text of the
Baltimore platform read, "Our title to the _whole_ of the territory of
Oregon is clear and unquestionable." Did President Polk mean to be
ambiguous at this point? Had he any reason to swerve from the strict
letter of the Democratic creed?

In his first message to Congress, President Polk alarmed staunch
Democrats by stating that he had tried to compromise our clear and
unquestionable claims, though he assured his party that he had done so
only out of deference to his predecessor in office. Those inherited
policies having led to naught, he was now prepared to reassert our
title to the whole of Oregon, which was sustained "by irrefragable
facts and arguments." He would therefore recommend that provision be
made for terminating the joint treaty of occupation, for extending the
jurisdiction of the United States over American citizens in Oregon,
and for protecting emigrants in transit through the Indian country.
These were strong measures. They might lead to war; but the temper of
Congress was warlike; and a group of Democrats in both houses was
ready to take up the programme which the President had outlined.
"Fifty-four forty or fight" was the cry with which they sought to
rally the Chauvinists of both parties to their standard. While Cass
led the skirmishing line in the Senate, Douglas forged to the fore in
the House.[207]

It is good evidence of the confidence placed in Douglas by his
colleagues that, when territorial questions of more than ordinary
importance were pending, he was appointed chairman of the Committee on
Territories.[208] If there was one division of legislative work in
which he showed both capacity and talent, it was in the organization
of our Western domain and in its preparation for statehood. The vision
which dazzled his imagination was that of an ocean-bound republic; to
that manifest destiny he had dedicated his talents, not by any
self-conscious surrender, but by the irresistible sweep of his
imagination, always impressed by things in the large and reinforced by
contact with actual Western conditions. Finance, the tariff, and
similar public questions of a technical nature, he was content to
leave to others; but those which directly concerned the making of a
continental republic he mastered with almost jealous eagerness. He had
now attained a position, which, for fourteen years, was conceded to be
indisputably his, for no sooner had he entered the Senate than he was
made chairman of a similar committee. His career must be measured by
the wisdom of his statesmanship in the peculiar problems which he was
called upon to solve concerning the public domain. In this sphere he
laid claim to expert judgment; from him, therefore, much was required;
but it was the fate of nearly every territorial question to be bound
up more or less intimately with the slavery question. Upon this
delicate problem was Douglas also able to bring expert testimony to
bear? Time only could tell. Meantime, the House Committee on
Territories had urgent business on hand.

Texas was now knocking at the door of the Union, and awaited only a
formal invitation to become one of the family of States, as the
chairman was wont to say cheerily. Ten days after the opening of the
session Douglas reported from his committee a joint resolution for
the admission of Texas, "on an equal footing with the original states
in all respects whatever."[209] There was a certain pleonasm about
this phrasing that revealed the hand of the chairman: the simple
statement must be reinforced both for legal security and for
rhetorical effect. Six days later, after but a single speech, the
resolution went to a third reading and was passed by a large
majority.[210] Voted upon with equal dispatch by the Senate, and
approved by the President, the joint resolution became law, December
29, 1845.

While the belligerent spirit of Congress had abated somewhat since the
last session, no such change had passed over the gentleman from
Illinois. No sooner had the Texas resolution been dispatched than he
brought in a bill to protect American settlers in Oregon, while the
joint treaty of occupation continued. He now acquiesced, it is true,
in the more temperate course of first giving Great Britain twelve
months' notice before terminating this treaty; but he was just as
averse as ever to compromise and arbitration. "For one," said he, "I
never will be satisfied with the valley of the Columbia, nor with 49°,
nor with 54° 40'; nor will I be, while Great Britain shall hold
possession of one acre on the northwest coast of America. And, Sir, I
never will agree to any arrangement that shall recognize her right to
one inch of soil upon the northwest coast; and for this simple reason:
Great Britain never did own, she never did have a valid title to one
inch of the country."[211] He moved that the question of title should
not be left to arbitration.[212] His countrymen, he felt sure, would
never trust their interests to European arbitrators, prejudiced as
they inevitably would be by their monarchical environment.[213] This
feeling was, indeed, shared by the President and his cabinet advisers.

With somewhat staggering frankness, Douglas laid bare his inmost
motive for unflinching opposition to Great Britain. The value of
Oregon was not to be measured by the extent of its seacoast nor by the
quality of its soil. "The great point at issue between us and Great
Britain is for the freedom of the Pacific Ocean, for the trade of
China and Japan, of the East Indies, and for the maritime ascendency
on all these waters." Oregon held a strategic position on the Pacific,
controlling the overland route between the Atlantic and the Orient. If
this country were yielded to Great Britain--"this power which holds
control over all the balance of the globe,"--it would make her
maritime ascendency complete.[214]

Stripped of its rhetorical garb, Douglas's speech of January 27, 1846,
must be acknowledged to have a substratum of good sense and the
elements of a true prophecy. When it is recalled that recent
developments in the Orient have indeed made the mastery of the Pacific
one of the momentous questions of the immediate future, that the
United States did not then possess either California or Alaska, and
that Oregon included the only available harbors on the coast,--the
pleas of Douglas, which rang false in the ears of his own generation,
sound prophetic in ours. Yet all that he said was vitiated by a
fallacy which a glance at a map of the Northwest will expose. The line
of 49° eventually gave to the United States Puget Sound with its
ample harbors.

Perhaps it was the same uncompromising spirit that prompted Douglas's
constituents in far away Illinois to seize the moment to endorse his
course in Congress. Early in January, nineteen delegates, defying the
inclemency of the season, met in convention at Rushville, and
renominated Douglas for Congress by acclamation.[215] History
maintains an impenetrable silence regarding these faithful nineteen;
it is enough to know that Douglas had no opposition to encounter in
his own bailiwick.

When the joint resolution to terminate the treaty of occupation came
to a vote, the intransigeants endeavored to substitute a declaration
to the effect that Oregon was no longer a subject for negotiation or
compromise. It was a silly proposition, in view of the circumstances,
yet it mustered ten supporters. Among those who passed between the
tellers, with cries of "54° 40' forever," amid the laughter of the
House, were Stephen A. Douglas and four of his Illinois
colleagues.[216] Against the substitute, one hundred and forty-six
votes were recorded,--an emphatic rebuke, if only the ten had chosen
so to regard it.

While the House resolution was under consideration in the Senate, it
was noised abroad that President Polk still considered himself free to
compromise with Great Britain on the line of 49°. Consternation fell
upon the Ultras. In the words of Senator Hannegan, they had believed
the President committed to 54° 40' in as strong language as that
which makes up the Holy Book. As rumor passed into certainty, the
feelings of Douglas can be imagined, but not described. He had
committed himself, and,--so far as in him lay,--his party, to the line
of 54° 40', in full confidence that Polk, party man that he was, would
stubbornly contest every inch of that territory. He had called on the
dogs of war in dauntless fashion, and now to find "the standard-bearer
of Democracy," "Young Hickory," and many of his party, disposed to
compromise on 49°,--it was all too exasperating for words. In contrast
to the soberer counsels that now prevailed, his impetuous advocacy of
the whole of Oregon seemed decidedly boyish. It was greatly to his
credit, however, that, while smarting under the humiliation of the
moment, he imposed restraint upon his temper and indulged in no bitter

Some weeks later, Douglas intimated that some of his party associates
had proved false to the professions of the Baltimore platform. No
Democrat, he thought, could consistently accept part of Oregon instead
of the whole. "Does the gentleman," asked Seddon, drawing him out for
the edification of the House, "hold that the Democratic party is
pledged to 54° 40'?" Douglas replied emphatically that he thought the
party was thus solemnly pledged. "Does the gentleman," persisted his
interrogator, "understand the President to have violated the
Democratic creed in offering to compromise on 49°?" Douglas replied
that he did understand Mr. Polk in his inaugural address "as standing
up erect to the pledge of the Baltimore Convention." And if ever
negotiations were again opened in violation of that pledge, "sooner
let his tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth than he would defend
that party which should yield one inch of Oregon."[217] Evidently he
had made up his mind to maintain his ground. Perhaps he had faint
hopes that the administration would not compromise our claims. He
still clung tenaciously to his bill for extending governmental
protection over American citizens in Oregon and for encouraging
emigration to the Pacific coast; and in the end he had the empty
satisfaction of seeing it pass the House.[218]

Meantime a war-cloud had been gathering in the Southwest. On May 11th,
President Polk announced that war existed by act of Mexico. From this
moment an amicable settlement with Great Britain was assured. The most
bellicose spirit in Congress dared not offer to prosecute two wars at
the same time. The warlike roar of the fifty-four forty men subsided
into a murmur of mild disapprobation. Yet Douglas was not among those
who sulked in their tents. To the surprise of his colleagues, he
accepted the situation, and he was among the first to defend the
President's course in the Mexico imbroglio.

A month passed before Douglas had occasion to call at the White House.
He was in no genial temper, for aside from personal grievances in the
Oregon affair, he had been disappointed in the President's recent
appointments to office in Illinois. The President marked his
unfriendly air, and suspecting the cause, took pains to justify his
course not only in the matter of the appointments, but in the Oregon
affair. If not convinced, Douglas was at least willing to let bygones
be bygones. Upon taking his departure, he assured the President that
he would continue to support the administration. The President
responded graciously that Mr. Douglas could lead the Democratic party
in the House if he chose to do so.[219]

When President Polk announced to Congress the conclusion of the Oregon
treaty with Great Britain, he recommended the organization of a
territorial government for the newly acquired country, at the earliest
practicable moment. Hardly had the President's message been read, when
Douglas offered a bill of this tenor, stating that it had been
prepared before the terms of the treaty had been made public. His
committee had not named the boundaries of the new Territory in the
bill, for obvious reasons. He also stated, parenthetically, that he
felt so keenly the humiliation of writing down the boundary of 49°,
that he preferred to leave that duty to those who had consented to
compromise our claims. In drafting the bill, he had kept in mind the
provisional government adopted by the people of Oregon: as they had in
turn borrowed nearly all the statutes of Iowa, it was to be presumed
that the people knew their own needs better than Congress.[220]

Before the bill passed the House it was amended at one notable point.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude should ever exist in the
Territory, following the provision in the Ordinance of 1787 for the
Northwest Territory. Presumably Douglas was not opposed to this
amendment,[221] though he voted against the famous Wilmot Proviso two
days later. Already Douglas showed a disposition to escape the toils
of the slavery question by a _laissez faire_ policy, which was
compounded of indifference to the institution itself and of a strong
attachment to states-rights. When Florida applied for admission into
the Union with a constitution that forbade the emancipation of slaves
and permitted the exclusion of free negroes, he denied the right of
Congress to refuse to receive the new State. The framers of the
Federal Constitution never intended that Congress should pass upon the
propriety or expediency of each clause in the constitutions of States
applying for admission. The great diversity of opinion resulting from
diversity of climate, soil, pursuits, and customs, made uniformity
impossible. The people of each State were to form their constitution
in their own way, subject to the single restriction that it should be
republican in character. "They are subject to the jurisdiction and
control of Congress during their infancy, their minority; but when
they obtain their majority and obtain admission into the Union, they
are free from all restraints ... except such as the Constitution of
the United States has imposed."[222]

The absorbing interest of Douglas at this point in his career is
perfectly clear. To span the continent with States and Territories, to
create an ocean-bound republic, has often seemed a gross,
materialistic ideal. Has a nation no higher destiny than mere
territorial bigness? Must an intensive culture with spiritual aims be
sacrificed to a vulgar exploitation of physical resources? Yet the
ends which this strenuous Westerner had in view were not wholly gross
and materialistic. To create the body of a great American Commonwealth
by removing barriers to its continental expansion, so that the soul of
Liberty might dwell within it, was no vulgar ambition. The conquest of
the continent must be accounted one of the really great achievements
of the century. In this dramatic exploit Douglas was at times an
irresponsible, but never a weak nor a false actor.

The session ended where it had begun, so far as Oregon was concerned.
The Senate failed to act upon the bill to establish a territorial
government; the earlier bill to protect American settlers also failed
of adoption; and thus American caravans continued to cross the plains
unprotected and ignored. But Congress had annexed a war.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 186: Message of December 3, 1844.]

[Footnote 187: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 85.]

[Footnote 188: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 65.]

[Footnote 189: _Ibid._, p. 66.]

[Footnote 190: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 66.]

[Footnote 191: _Ibid._, p. 67.]

[Footnote 192: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 68.]

[Footnote 193: _American Historical Review_, VIII, pp. 93-94.]

[Footnote 194: It was voted down 107 to 96; _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2
Sess., p. 192.]

[Footnote 195: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 193.]

[Footnote 196: Linn's Story of the Mormons, Chs. 10-20, gives in great
detail the facts connected with this Mormon emigration. I have
borrowed freely from this account for the following episode.]

[Footnote 197: Linn, Story of the Mormons, pp. 340-341.]

[Footnote 198: Lyman, History of Oregon, III, p. 188.]

[Footnote 199: See the letter of a New England Correspondent in the
Peoria _Register_, May, 1839.]

[Footnote 200: Peoria _Register_, June 8, 1839.]

[Footnote 201: _Globe_,28 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 198 and 201.]

[Footnote 202: Greenhow, Northwest Coast of North America, p. 200.]

[Footnote 203: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 41.]

[Footnote 204: _Ibid._, p. 173.]

[Footnote 205: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 63.]

[Footnote 206: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 225-226.]

[Footnote 207: His capacity for leadership was already recognized. His
colleagues conceded that he was "a man of large faculties." See
Hilliard, Politics and Pen Pictures, p. 129.]

[Footnote 208: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 25.]

[Footnote 209: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 39.]

[Footnote 210: _Ibid._, p. 65.]

[Footnote 211: _Ibid._, p. 259.]

[Footnote 212: _Ibid._, p. 86.]

[Footnote 213: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 260.]

[Footnote 214: _Ibid._, pp. 258-259.]

[Footnote 215: Illinois _State Register_, Jan. 15, 1846.]

[Footnote 216: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 347; Wheeler, History of
Congress, pp. 114-115.]

[Footnote 217: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess. p. 497.]

[Footnote 218: _Ibid._, pp. 85, 189, 395, 690-691.]

[Footnote 219: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for June 17, 1846.]

[Footnote 220: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1203.]

[Footnote 221: He voted for a similar amendment in 1844; see _Globe_,
28 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 236.]

[Footnote 222: _Globe_, 28 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 284.]



A long and involved diplomatic history preceded President Polk's
simple announcement that "Mexico has passed the boundary of the United
States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon
American soil." Rightly to evaluate these words, the reader should
bear in mind that the mission of John Slidell to Mexico had failed;
that the hope of a peaceable adjustment of the Texas boundary and of
American claims against Mexico had vanished; and that General Taylor
had been ordered to the Rio Grande in disregard of Mexican claims to
that region. One should also know that, from the beginning of his
administration, Polk had hoped to secure from our bankrupt neighbor
the cession of California as an indemnity.[223] A motive for
forbearance in dealing with the distraught Mexican government was thus
wholly absent from the mind of President Polk.

Such of these facts as were known at the time, supplied the Whig
opposition in Congress with an abundance of ammunition against the
administration. Language was used which came dangerously near being
unparliamentary. So the President was willing to sacrifice Oregon to
prosecute this "illegal, unrighteous and damnable war" for Texas,
sneered Delano. "Where did the gentleman from Illinois stand now? Was
he still in favor of 61?" This sally brought Douglas to his feet and
elicited one of his cleverest extempore speeches. He believed that
such words as the gentleman had uttered could come only from one who
desired defeat for our arms. "All who, after war is declared, condemn
the justice of our cause, are traitors in their hearts. And would to
God that they would commit some overt act for which they could be
dealt with according to their deserts." Patriots might differ as to
the expediency of entering upon war; but duty and honor forbade
divided counsels after American blood had been shed on American soil.
Had he foreseen the extraordinary turn of the discussion, he assured
his auditors, he could have presented "a catalogue of aggressions and
insults; of outrages on our national flag--on persons and property of
our citizens; of the violation of treaty stipulations, and the murder,
robbery, and imprisonment of our countrymen." These were all anterior
to the annexation of Texas, and perhaps alone would have justified a
declaration of war; but "magnanimity and forbearance toward a weak and
imbecile neighbor" prevented hostilities. The recent outrages left the
country no choice but war. The invasion of the country was the last of
the cumulative causes for war.

But was the invaded territory properly "our country"? This was the
_crux_ of the whole matter. On this point Douglas was equally
confident and explicit. Waiving the claims which the treaty of San
Ildefonso may have given to the boundary of the Rio Grande, he rested
the whole case upon "an immutable principle"--the Republic of Texas
held the country on the left bank of that river by virtue of a
successful revolution. The United States had received Texas as a State
with all her territory, and had no right to surrender any portion of

The evidence which Douglas presented to confirm these claims is highly
interesting. The right of Texas to have and to hold the territory from
the Nueces to the Rio Grande was, in his opinion, based
incontrovertibly on the treaty made by Santa Anna after the battle of
San Jacinto, which acknowledged the independence of Texas and
recognized the Rio Grande as its boundary. To an inquiry whether the
treaty was ever ratified by the government of Mexico, Douglas replied
that he was not aware that it had been ratified by anyone except Santa
Anna, for the very good reason that he was the government at the time.
"Has not that treaty with Santa Anna been since discarded by the
Mexican government?" asked the venerable J.Q. Adams. "I presume it
has," replied Douglas, "for I am not aware of any treaty or compact
which that government ever entered into that has not either been
violated or repudiated by them afterwards." But Santa Anna, as
recognized dictator, was the _de facto_ government, and the acts of a
_de facto_ government were binding on the nation as against foreign
nations. "It is immaterial, therefore, whether Mexico has or has not
since repudiated Santa Anna's treaty with Texas. It was executed at
the time by competent authority. She availed herself of all its
benefits." Forthwith Texas established counties beyond the Nueces,
even to the Rio Grande, and extended her jurisdiction over that
region, while in a later armistice Mexico recognized the Rio Grande as
the boundary. It was in the clear light of these facts that Congress
had passed an act extending the revenue laws of the United States
over the country between the Rio Grande and the Nueces--the very
country in which American soldiers had been slain by an invading

All things considered, Douglas's line of argument was as well
sustained as any presented by the supporters of the war. The absence
of any citations to substantiate important points was of course due to
the impromptu nature of the speech. Two years later,[225] in a
carefully prepared speech constructed on much the same principles, he
made good these omissions, but without adding much, it must be
confessed, to the strength of his argument. The chain of evidence was
in fact no stronger than its weakest link, which was the so-called
treaty of Santa Anna with the President of the Republic of Texas.
Nowhere in the articles, public or secret, is there an express
recognition of the independence of the Republic, nor of the boundary.
Santa Anna simply pledged himself to do his utmost to bring about a
recognition of independence, and an acknowledgment of the claims of
Texas to the Rio Grande as a boundary.[226] Did Douglas misinterpret
these articles, or did he chance upon an unauthentic version of them?
In the subsequent speech to which reference has been made, he cited
specific articles which supported his contention. These citations do
not tally with either the public or secret treaty. It may be doubted
whether the secret articles were generally known at this time; but the
open treaty had been published in Niles' _Register_ correctly, and had
been cited by President Polk.[227] The inference would seem to be
that Douglas unwittingly used an unauthenticated version, and found in
it a conclusive argument for the claim of Texas to the disputed

Mr. John Quincy Adams had followed Douglas with the keenest interest,
for with all the vigor which his declining strength permitted, he had
denounced the war as an aggression upon a weaker neighbor. He had
repeatedly interrupted Douglas, so that the latter almost insensibly
addressed his remarks to him. They presented a striking contrast: the
feeble, old man and the ardent, young Westerner. When Douglas alluded
to the statement of Mr. Adams in 1819, that "our title to the Rio del
Norte is as clear as to the island of New Orleans," the old man
replied testily, "I never said that our title was good to the Rio del
Norte from its mouth to its source." But the gentleman surely did
claim the Rio del Norte in general terms as the boundary under the
Louisiana treaty, persisted Douglas. "I have the official evidence
over his own signature.... It is his celebrated dispatch to Don Onis,
the Spanish minister." "I wrote that dispatch as Secretary of State,"
responded Mr. Adams, somewhat disconcerted by evidence from his own
pen, "and endeavored to make out the best case I could for my own
country, as it was my duty; but I utterly deny that I claimed the Rio
del Norte in its whole extent. I only claimed it as the line a short
distance up, and then took a line northward, some distance from the
river." "I have heard of this line to which the gentleman refers,"
replied Douglas. "It followed a river near the gorge of the mountains,
certainly more than a hundred miles above Matamoras. Consequently,
taking the gentleman on his own claim, the position occupied by
General Taylor opposite Matamoras, and every inch of the ground upon
which an American soldier has planted his foot, were clearly within
our own territory as claimed by him in 1819."[228]

It seemed to an eyewitness of this encounter that the veteran
statesman was decidedly worsted. "The House was divided between
admiration for the new actor on the great stage of national affairs
and reverence for the retiring chief," wrote a friend in after years,
with more loyalty than accuracy.[229] The Whig side of the chamber was
certainly in no mood to waste admiration on any Democrat who defended
"Polk the Mendacious."

Hardly had the war begun when there was a wild scramble among
Democrats for military office. It seemed to the distressed President
as though every Democratic civilian became an applicant for some
commission. Particularly embarrassing was the passion for office that
seized upon members of Congress. Even Douglas felt the spark of
military genius kindling within him. His friends, too, were convinced
that he possessed qualities which would make him an intrepid leader
and a tactician of no mean order. The entire Illinois delegation
united to urge his appointment as Brigadier Major of the Illinois
volunteers. Happily for the President, his course in this instance was
clearly marked out by a law, which required him to select only
officers already in command of State militia.[230] Douglas was keenly
disappointed. He even presented himself in person to overrule the
President's objection. The President was kind, but firm. He advised
Douglas to withdraw his application. In his judgment, Mr. Douglas
could best serve his country in Congress. Shortly afterward Douglas
sent a letter to the President, withdrawing his application--"like a
sensible man," commented the relieved Executive.[231] It is not likely
that the army lost a great commander by this decision.

In a State like Illinois, which had been staunchly Democratic for many
years, elections during a war waged by a Democratic administration
were not likely to yield any surprises. There was perhaps even less
doubt of the result of the election in the Fifth Congressional
District. By the admission of his opponents Douglas was stronger than
he had been before.[232] Moreover, the war was popular in the counties
upon whose support he had counted in other years. He had committed no
act for which he desired general oblivion; his warlike utterances on
Oregon, which had cost him some humiliation at Washington, so far from
forfeiting the confidence of his followers, seem rather to have
enhanced his popularity. Douglas carried every county in his district
but one, and nearly all by handsome majorities. He had been first sent
to Congress by a majority over Browning of less than five hundred
votes; in the following canvass he had tripled his majority; and now
he was returned to Congress by a majority of over twenty-seven hundred
votes.[233] He had every reason to feel gratified with this showing,
even though some of his friends were winning military glory on Mexican
battlefields. So long as he remained content with his seat in the
House, there were no clouds in his political firmament. Not even the
agitation of Abolitionists and Native Americans need cause him any
anxiety, for the latter were wholly a negligible political quantity
and the former practically so.[234] Everywhere but in the Seventh
District, from which Lincoln was returned, Democratic Congressmen were
chosen; and to make the triumph complete, a Democratic State ticket
was elected and a Democratic General Assembly again assured.

Early in the fall, on his return from a Southern trip, Douglas called
upon the President in Washington. He was cordially welcomed, and not a
little flattered by Polk's readiness to talk over the political
situation before Congress met.[235] Evidently his support was
earnestly desired for the contemplated policies of the administration.
It was needed, as events proved. No sooner was Congress assembled than
the opposition charged Polk with having exceeded his authority in
organizing governments in the territory wrested from Mexico. Douglas
sprang at once to the President's defense. He would not presume to
speak with authority in the matter, but an examination of the
accessible official papers had convinced him that the course of the
President and of the commanders of the army was altogether defensible.
"In conducting the war, conquest was effected, and the right growing
out of conquest was to govern the subdued provinces in a temporary and
provisional manner, until the home government should establish a
government in another form."[236] And more to this effect, uttered in
the heated language of righteous indignation.

For thus throwing himself into the breach, Douglas was rewarded by
further confidences. Before Polk replied to the resolution of inquiry
which the House had voted, he summoned Douglas and a colleague to the
White House, to acquaint them with the contents of his message and
with the documents which would accompany it, so "that they might be
prepared to meet any attacks." And again, with four other members of
the House, Douglas was asked to advise the President in the matter of
appointing Colonel Benton to the office of lieutenant-general in
command of the armies in the field. At the same time, the President
laid before them his project for an appropriation of two millions to
purchase peace; _i.e._ to secure a cession of territory from Mexico.
With one accord Douglas and his companions advised the President not
to press Benton's appointment, but all agreed that the desired
appropriation should be pushed through Congress with all possible
speed.[237] Yet all knew that such a bill must run the gauntlet of
amendment by those who had attached the Wilmot Proviso to the
two-million-dollar bill of the last session.

While Douglas was thus rising rapidly to the leadership of his party
in the House, the Legislature of his State promoted him to the Senate.
For six years he had been a potential candidate for the office,
despite his comparative youth.[238] What transpired in the Democratic
caucus which named him as the candidate of the party, history does not
record. That there was jealousy on the part of older men, much
heart-burning among the younger aspirants, and bargaining on all
sides, may be inferred from an incident recorded in Polk's diary.[239]
Soon after his election, Douglas repaired to the President's office to
urge the appointment of Richard M. Young of Illinois as Commissioner
of the General Land Office. This was not the first time that Douglas
had urged the appointment, it would seem. The President now inquired
of Senator Breese, who had accompanied Douglas and seconded his
request, whether the appointment would be satisfactory to the Illinois
delegation. Both replied that it would, if Mr. Hoge, a member of the
present Congress, who had been recommended at the last session, could
not be appointed. The President repeated his decision not to appoint
members of Congress to office, except in special cases, and suggested
another candidate. Neither Douglas nor Breese would consent. Polk then
spoke of a diplomatic charge for Young, but they would not hear of it.

Next morning Douglas returned to the attack, and the President, under
pressure, sent the nomination of Young to the Senate; before five
o'clock of the same day, Polk was surprised to receive a notification
from the Secretary of the Senate that the nomination had been
confirmed. The President was a good deal mystified by this unusual
promptness, until three members of the Illinois delegation called some
hours later, in a state of great excitement, saying that Douglas and
Breese had taken advantage of them. They had no knowledge that Young's
nomination was being pressed, and McClernand in high dudgeon intimated
that this was all a bargain between Young and the two Senators.
Douglas and Breese had sought to prevent Young from contesting their
seats in the Senate, by securing a fat office for him. All this is _ex
parte_ evidence against Senator Douglas; but there is nothing
intrinsically improbable in the story. In these latter days, so
comparatively innocent a deal would pass without comment.

Immediately upon taking his seat in the Senate, Douglas was appointed
chairman of the Committee on Territories. It was then a position of
the utmost importance, for every question of territorial organization
touched the peculiar interests of the South. The varying currents of
public opinion crossed in this committee. Senator Bright of Indiana is
well described by the hackneyed and often misapplied designation, a
Northern Democrat with Southern principles; Butler was Calhoun's
colleague; Clayton of Delaware was a Whig and represented a border
State which was vacillating between slavery and freedom; while Davis
was a Massachusetts Whig. Douglas was placed, as it appeared, in the
very storm center of politics, where his well-known fighting qualities
would be in demand. It was not so clear to those who knew him, that he
possessed the not less needful qualities of patience and tact for
occasions when battles are not won by fighting. Still, life at the
capital had smoothed his many little asperities of manner. He had
learned to conform to the requirements of a social etiquette to which
he had been a stranger; yet without losing the heartiness of manner
and genial companionableness with all men which was, indeed, his
greatest personal charm. His genuineness and large-hearted regard for
his friends grappled them to him and won respect even from those who
were not of his political faith.[240]

An incident at the very outset of his career in the Senate, betrayed
some little lack of self-restraint. When Senator Cass introduced the
so-called Ten Regiments bill, Calhoun asked that its consideration
might be postponed, in order to give him opportunity to discuss
resolutions on the prospective annexation of Mexico. Cass was disposed
to yield for courtesy's sake; but Douglas resented the interruption.
He failed to see why public business should be suspended in order to
discuss abstract propositions. He believed that this doctrine of
courtesy was being carried to great lengths.[241] Evidently the young
Senator, fresh from the brisk atmosphere of the House, was restive
under the conventional restraints of the more sedate Senate. He had
not yet become acclimated.

Douglas made his first formal speech in the Senate on February 1,
1848. Despite his disclaimers, he had evidently made careful
preparation, for his desk was strewn with books and he referred
frequently to his authorities. The Ten Regiments bill was known to be
a measure of the administration; and for this reason, if for no other,
it was bitterly opposed. The time seemed opportune for a vindication
of the President's policy. Douglas indignantly repelled the charge
that the war had from the outset been a war of conquest. "It is a war
of self-defense, forced upon us by our enemy, and prosecuted on our
part in vindication of our honor, and the integrity of our territory.
The enemy invaded our territory, and we repelled the invasion, and
demanded satisfaction for all our grievances. In order to compel
Mexico to do us justice, it was necessary to follow her retreating
armies into her territory ... and inasmuch as it was certain that she
was unable to make indemnity in money, we must necessarily take it in
land. Conquest was not the motive for the prosecution of the war;
satisfaction, indemnity, security, was the motive--conquest and
territory the means."[242]

Once again Douglas reviewed the origin of the war re-arguing the case
for the administration. If the arguments employed were now well-worn,
they were repeated with an incisiveness that took away much of their
staleness. This speech must be understood as complementary to that
which he had made in the House at the opening of hostilities. But he
had not changed his point of view, nor moderated his contentions. Time
seemed to have served only to make him surer of his evidence. Douglas
exhibited throughout his most conspicuous excellencies and his most
glaring defects. From first to last he was an attorney, making the
best possible defense of his client. Nothing could excel his adroit
selection of evidence, and his disposition and massing of telling
testimony. Form and presentation were admirably calculated to disarm
and convince. It goes without saying that Douglas's mental attitude
was the opposite of the scientific and historic spirit. Having a
proposition to establish, he cared only for pertinent evidence. He
rarely inquired into the character of the authorities from which he
culled his data.

That this attitude of mind and these unscholarly habits often were his
undoing, was inevitable. He was often betrayed by fallacies and hasty
inferences. The speech before us illustrates this lamentable mental
defect. With the utmost assurance Douglas pointed out that Texas had
actually extended her jurisdiction over the debatable land between the
Nueces and the Rio Grande, fixing by law the times of holding court in
the counties of San Patricio and Bexar. This was in the year 1838. The
conclusion was almost unavoidable that when Texas came into the Union,
her actual sovereignty extended to the Rio Grande. But further
examination would have shown Douglas, that the only inhabited portion
of the so-called counties were the towns on the right bank of the
Nueces: beyond, lay a waste which was still claimed by Mexico. Was he
misinformed, or had he hastily selected the usable portion of the
evidence? Once again, in his eagerness to show that Mexico, so
recently as 1842, had tacitly recognized the Rio Grande as a boundary
in her military operations, he controverted his own argument that
Texas had been in undisturbed possession of the country. He
corroborated the conviction of those who from the first had asserted
that, in annexing Texas, the United States had annexed a war. This
from the man who had formerly declared that the danger of war was
remote, because there had been no war between Mexico and Texas for
nine years!

Before a vote could be reached on the Ten Regiments bill, the draft
of the Mexican treaty had been sent to the Senate. What transpired in
executive session and what part Douglas sustained in the discussion of
the treaty, may be guessed pretty accurately by his later admissions.
He was one of an aggressive minority who stoutly opposed the provision
of the fifth article of the treaty, which was to this effect: "The
boundary-line established by this article shall be religiously
respected by each of the two republics, and no change shall ever be
made therein except by the express and free consent of both nations,
lawfully given by the general government of each, in conformity with
its own Constitution." This statement was deemed a humiliating avowal
that the United States had wrongfully warred upon Mexico, and a solemn
pledge that we would never repeat the offense. The obvious retort was
that certain consciences now seemed hypersensitive about the war.
However that may be, eleven votes were recorded for conscience' sake
against the odious article.

This was not the only ground of complaint. Douglas afterward stated
the feeling of the minority in this way: "It violated a great
principle of public policy in relation to this continent. It pledges
the faith of this Republic that our successors shall not do that which
duty to the interests and honor of the country, in the progress of
events, may compel them to do." But he hastened to add that he
meditated no aggression upon Mexico. In short, the Republic,--such was
his hardly-concealed thought,--might again fall out with its imbecile
neighbor and feel called upon to administer punishment by demanding
indemnity. There was no knowing what "the progress of events" might
make a national necessity.[243]

As yet Douglas had contributed nothing to the solution of the problem
which lurked behind the Mexican cession; nor had he tried his hand at
making party opinion on new issues. He seemed to have no concern
beyond the concrete business on the calendar of the Senate. He classed
all anticipatory discussion of future issues as idle abstraction. Had
he no imagination? Had he no eyes to see beyond the object immediately
within his field of vision? Had his alert intelligence suddenly become

On the subject of Abolitionism, at least, he had positive convictions,
which he did not hesitate to express. An exciting episode in the
Senate drew from him a sharp arraignment of the extreme factions North
and South. An acrimonious debate had been precipitated by a bill
introduced by that fervid champion of Abolitionism, Senator Hale of
New Hampshire, which purported to protect property in the District of
Columbia against rioters. A recent attack upon the office of the
_National Era_, the organ of Abolitionism, at the capital, as everyone
understood, inspired the bill, and inevitably formed the real subject
of debate.[244] It was in the heated colloquy that ensued that Senator
Foote of Mississippi earned his sobriquet of "Hangman," by inviting
Hale to visit Mississippi and to "grace one of the tallest trees of
the forest, with a rope around his neck." Calhoun, too, was excited
beyond his wont, declaring that he would as soon argue with a maniac
from Bedlam as with the Senator from New Hampshire.

With cool audacity and perfect self-possession, Douglas undertook to
recall the Senate to its wonted composure,--a service not likely to be
graciously received by the aggrieved parties. Douglas remarked
sarcastically that Southern gentlemen had effected just what the
Senator from New Hampshire, as presidential candidate of the
Abolitionists, had desired: they had unquestionably doubled his vote
in the free States. The invitation of the Senator from Mississippi
alone was worth not less than ten thousand votes to the Senator from
New Hampshire. "It is the speeches of Southern men, representing slave
States, going to an extreme, breathing a fanaticism as wild and as
reckless as that of the Senator from New Hampshire, which creates
Abolitionism in the North." These were hardly the words of the
traditional peacemaker. Senator Foote was again upon his feet
breathing out imprecations. "I must again congratulate the Senator
from New Hampshire," resumed Douglas, "on the accession of the five
thousand votes!" Again a colloquy ensued. Calhoun declared Douglas's
course "at least as offensive as that of the Senator from New
Hampshire." Douglas was then permitted to speak uninterruptedly. He
assured his Southern colleagues that, as one not altogether
unacquainted with life in the slave States, he appreciated their
indignation against Abolitionists and shared it; but as he had no
sympathy for Abolitionism, he also had none for that extreme course of
Southern gentlemen which was akin to Abolitionism. "We stand up for
all your constitutional rights, in which we will protect you to the
last.... But we protest against being made instruments--puppets--in
this slavery excitement, which can operate only to your interest and
the building up of those who wish to put you down."[245]

Dignified silence, however, was the last thing to be expected from the
peppery gentleman from Mississippi. He must speak "the language of
just indignation." He gladly testified to the consideration with which
Douglas was wont to treat the South, but he warned the young Senator
from Illinois that the old adage--_"in medio tutissimus ibis"_--might
lead him astray. He might think to reach the goal of his ambitions by
keeping clear of the two leading factions and by identifying himself
with the masses, but he was grievously mistaken.

The reply of Douglas was dignified and guarded. He would not speak for
or against slavery. The institution was local and sustained by local
opinion; by local sentiment it would stand or fall. "In the North it
is not expected that we should take the position that slavery is a
positive good--a positive blessing. If we did assume such a position,
it would be a very pertinent inquiry. Why do you not adopt this
institution? We have moulded our institutions at the North as we have
thought proper; and now we say to you of the South, if slavery be a
blessing, it is your blessing; if it be a curse, it is your curse;
enjoy it--on you rest all the responsibility! We are prepared to aid
you in the maintenance of all your constitutional rights; and I
apprehend that no man, South or North, has shown more consistently a
disposition to do so than myself.... But I claim the privilege of
pointing out to you how you give strength and encouragement to the
Abolitionists of the North."[246]

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 223: See Garrison, Westward Extension, Ch. 14.]

[Footnote 224: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 815.]

[Footnote 225: February 1, 1848.]

[Footnote 226: See Bancroft's History of Mexico, pp. 173-174 note.]

[Footnote 227: Niles' _Register_, Vol. 50, p. 336.]

[Footnote 228: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 816-817.]

[Footnote 229: Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men, I, p. 52.]

[Footnote 230: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for June 22, 1846.]

[Footnote 231: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for June 23, 1846.]

[Footnote 232: Even the Alton _Telegraph_, a Whig paper, and in times
past no admirer of Douglas, spoke (May 30, 1846) of the "most
admirable" speech of Judge Douglas in defense of the Mexican War (May

[Footnote 233: The official returns were as follows:

    Douglas          9629
    Vandeventer      6864
    Wilson            395

[Footnote 234: The Abolitionist candidate in 1846 showed no marked
gain over the candidate in 1844; Native Americanism had no candidates
in the field.]

[Footnote 235: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for September 4, 1846.]

[Footnote 236: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 13-14.]

[Footnote 237: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for December 14, 1846.]

[Footnote 238: Ford, History of Illinois, p. 390.]

[Footnote 239: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for January 6, 1847.]

[Footnote 240: Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men, I, pp. 146-147.]

[Footnote 241: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 92.]

[Footnote 242: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 222.]

[Footnote 243: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 172.]

[Footnote 244: The debate is reported in the _Globe_, 30 Cong., 1
Sess., App., pp. 500 ff.]

[Footnote 245: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 506.]

[Footnote 246: _Ibid._, p. 507.]



When Douglas entered Washington in the fall of 1847, as junior Senator
from Illinois, our troops had occupied the city of Mexico and
negotiations for peace were well under way. Perplexing problems
awaited Congress. President Polk sternly reminded the two Houses that
peace must bring indemnity for the past and security for the future,
and that the only indemnity which Mexico could offer would be a
cession of territory. Unwittingly, he gave the signal for another
bitter controversy, for in the state of public opinion at that moment,
every accession of territory was bound to raise the question of the
extension of slavery. The country was on the eve of another
presidential election. Would the administration which had precipitated
the war, prove itself equal to the legislative burdens imposed by that
war? Could the party evolve a constructive programme and at the same
time name a candidate that would win another victory at the polls?

It soon transpired that the Democratic party was at loggerheads. Of
all the factions, that headed by the South Carolina delegation
possessed the greatest solidarity. Under the leadership of Calhoun,
its attitude toward slavery in the Territories was already clearly
stated in almost syllogistic form: the States are co-sovereigns in the
Territories; the general government is only the agent of the
co-sovereigns; therefore, the citizens of each State may settle in the
Territories with whatever is recognized as property in their own
State. The corollary of this doctrine was: Congress may not exclude
slavery from the Territories.

At the other pole of political thought, stood the supporters of the
Wilmot Proviso, who had twice endeavored to attach a prohibition of
slavery to all territory which should be acquired from Mexico, and who
had retarded the organization of Oregon by insisting upon a similar
concession to the principle of slavery-restriction in that Territory.
Next to these Ultras were those who doubted the necessity of the
Wilmot Proviso, believing that slavery was already prohibited in the
new acquisitions by Mexican law. Yet not for an instant did they doubt
the power of Congress to prohibit slavery in the Territories.

Between these extremes were grouped the followers of Senator Cass of
Michigan, who was perhaps the most conspicuous candidate for the
Democratic nomination. In his famous Nicholson letter of December 24,
1847, he questioned both the expediency and constitutionality of the
Wilmot Proviso. It seemed to him wiser to confine the authority of the
general government to the erection of proper governments for the new
countries, leaving the inhabitants meantime to regulate their internal
concerns in their own way. In all probability neither California nor
New Mexico would be adapted to slave labor, because of physical and
climatic conditions. Dickinson of New York carried this doctrine,
which was promptly dubbed "Squatter Sovereignty," to still greater
lengths. Not only by constitutional right, but by "inherent," "innate"
sovereignty, were the people of the Territories vested with the power
to determine their own concerns.

Beside these well-defined groups there were others which professed no
doctrines and no policies. Probably the rank and file of the party
were content to drift: to be non committal was safer than to be
doctrinaire; besides, it cost less effort. Such was the plight of the
Democratic party on the eve of a presidential election. If harmony was
to proceed out of this diversity, the process must needs be

The fate of Oregon had been a hard one. Without a territorial
government through no fault of their own, the settlers had been
repeatedly visited by calamities which the prompt action of Congress
might have averted.[247] The Senate had failed to act on one
territorial bill; twice it had rejected bills which had passed the
House, and the only excuse for delay was the question of slavery,
which everybody admitted could never exist in Oregon. On January 10,
1848, for the fourth time, Douglas presented a bill to provide a
territorial government for Oregon;[248] but before he could urge its
consideration, he was summoned to the bed-side of his father-in-law.
His absence left a dead-lock in the Committee on Territories:
Democrats and Whigs could not agree on the clause in the bill which
prohibited slavery in Oregon. What was the true inwardness of this
unwillingness to prohibit slavery where it could never go?

The Senate seemed apathetic; but its apathy was more feigned than
real. There was, indeed, great interest in the bill, but equally great
reluctance to act upon it. What the South feared was not that Oregon
would be free soil,--that was conceded,--but that an unfavorable
precedent would be established. Were it conceded that Congress might
exclude slavery from Oregon, a similar power could not be denied
Congress in legislating for the newly acquired Territories where
slavery was possible.[249]

As a last resort, a select committee was appointed, of which Senator
Clayton became chairman. Within a week, a compromise was reported
which embraced not only Oregon, but California and New Mexico as well.
The laws of the provisional government of Oregon were to stand until
the new legislature should alter them, while the legislatures of the
prospective Territories of California and New Mexico were forbidden to
make laws touching slavery. The question whether, under existing laws,
slaves might or might not be carried into these two Territories, was
left to the courts with right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the
United States.[250] The Senate accepted this compromise after a
prolonged debate, but the House laid it on the table without so much
as permitting it to be read.[251]

Douglas returned in time to give his vote for the Clayton
compromise,[252] but when this laborious effort to adjust controverted
matters failed, he again pressed his original bill.[253] Hoping to
make this more palatable, he suggested an amendment to the
objectionable prohibitory clause: "inasmuch as the said territory is
north of the parallel of 36° 30' of north latitude, usually known as
the Missouri Compromise." It was the wish of his committee, he told
the Senate, that "no Senator's vote on the bill should be understood
as committing him on the great question."[254] In other words, he
invited the Senate to act without creating a precedent; to extend the
Missouri Compromise line without raising troublesome constitutional
questions in the rest of the public domain; to legislate for a special
case on the basis of an old agreement, without predicating anything
about the future. When this amendment came to vote, only Douglas and
Bright supported it.[255]

Douglas then proposed to extend the Missouri Compromised line to the
Pacific, by an amendment which declared the old agreement "revived ...
and in full force and binding for the future organization of the
Territories of the United States, in the same sense and with the same
understanding with which it was originally adopted."[256] This was
President Polk's solution of the question. It commended itself to
Douglas less on grounds of equity than of expediency. It was a
compromise which then cost him no sacrifice of principle; but though
the Senate agreed to the proposal, the House would have none of
it.[257] In the end, after an exhausting session, the Senate gave
way,[258] and the Territory of Oregon was organized with the
restrictive clause borrowed from the Ordinance of 1787. All this
turmoil had effected nothing except ill-feeling, for the final act was
identical with the bill which Douglas had originally introduced in the

In the meantime, national party conventions for the nomination of
presidential candidates had been held. The choice of the Democrats
fell upon Cass; but his nomination could not be interpreted as an
indorsement of his doctrine of squatter sovereignty. By a decisive
vote, the convention rejected Yancey's resolution favoring
"non-interference with the rights of property of any portion of the
people of this confederation, be it in the States or in the
Territories, by any other than the parties interested in them."[259]
The action of the convention made it clear that traditional principles
and habitual modes of political thought and action alone held the
party together. The Whig party had no greater organic unity. The
nomination of General Taylor, who was a doubtful Whig, was a
confession that the party was non-committal on the issues of the hour.
There was much opposition to both candidates. Many anti-slavery Whigs
could not bring themselves to vote for Taylor, who was a slave-owner;
Democrats who had supported the Wilmot Proviso, disliked the evasive
doctrine of Cass.

The disaffected of both parties finally effected a fusion in the
Free-Soil convention, and with other anti-slavery elements nominated
Van Buren as their presidential candidate. With the cry of "Free soil,
free speech, free labor, and free men," the new party threatened to
upset the calculations of politicians in many quarters of the country.

The defeat of the Democratic party in the election of 1848 was
attributed to the war of factions in New York. Had the Barnburners
supported Cass, he would have secured the electoral vote of the State.
They were accused of wrecking the party out of revenge. Certain it is
that the outcome was indecisive, so far as the really vital questions
of the hour were concerned. A Whig general had been sent to the White
House, but no one knew what policies he would advocate. The Democrats
were still in control of the Senate; but thirteen Free-Soilers held
the balance of power in the House.[260]

Curiosity was excited to know what the moribund administration of the
discredited Polk would do. Douglas shared this inquisitiveness. He had
parted with the President in August rather angrily, owing to a fancied
grievance. On his return he called at the White House and apologized
handsomely for his "imprudent language."[261] The President was more
than glad to patch up the quarrel, for he could ill afford now, in
these waning hours of his administration, to part company with one
whom he regarded as "an ardent and active political supporter and
friend." Cordial relations resumed, Polk read to Douglas
confidentially such portions of his forthcoming message as related to
the tariff, the veto power, and the establishment of territorial
governments in California and New Mexico. In the spirit of compromise
he was still willing to approve an extension of the Missouri
Compromise line through our new possessions. Should this prove
unacceptable, he would give his consent to a bill which would leave
the vexing question of slavery in the new Territories to the
judiciary, as Clayton had proposed. Douglas was now thoroughly
deferential. He gratified the President by giving the message his
unqualified approval.[262]

However, by the time Congress met, Douglas had made out his own
programme; and it differed in one respect from anything that the
President, or for that matter anyone else, had suggested. He proposed
to admit both New Mexico and California; _i.e._ all of the territory
acquired from Mexico, into the Union _as a State_. Some years later,
Douglas said that he had introduced his California bill with the
approval of the President;[263] but in this his memory was surely at
fault. The full credit for this innovation belongs to Douglas.[264] He
justified the departure from precedent in this instance, on the score
of California's astounding growth in population. Besides, a
territorial bill could hardly pass in this short session, "for reasons
which may be apparent to all of us." Three bills had already been

Now while California had rapidly increased in population, there were
probably not more than twenty-six thousand souls within its borders,
and of these more than a third were foreigners.[266] One would
naturally suppose that a period of territorial tutelage would have
been peculiarly fitting for this distant possession. Obviously,
Douglas did not disclose his full thought. What he really proposed,
was to avoid raising the spectre of slavery again. If the people of
California could skip the period of their political minority and leap
into their majority, they might then create their own institutions: no
one could gainsay this right, when once California should be a
"sovereign State." This was an application of squatter sovereignty at
which Calhoun, least of all, could mock.

The President and his cabinet were taken by surprise. Frequent
consultations were held. Douglas was repeatedly closeted with the
President. All the members of the cabinet agreed that the plan of
leaving the slavery question to the people of the new State was
ingenious; but many objections were raised to a single State. In
repeated interviews, Polk urged Douglas to draft a separate bill for
New Mexico; but Douglas was obdurate.[267]

To Douglas's chagrin, the California bill was not referred to his
committee, but to the Committee on the Judiciary. Perhaps this course
was in accord with precedent, but it was noted that four out of the
five members of this committee were Southerners, and that the vote to
refer was a sectional one.[268] An adverse report was therefore to be
expected. Signs were not wanting that if the people of the new
province were left to work out their own salvation, they would exclude
slavery.[269] The South was acutely sensitive to such signs. Nothing
of this bias, however, appeared in the report of the committee. With
great cleverness and circumspection they chose another mode of attack.

The committee professed to discover in the bill a radical departure
from traditional policy. When had Congress ever created a State out of
"an unorganized body of people having no constitution, or laws, or
legitimate bond of union?" California was to be a "sovereign State,"
yet the bill provided that Congress should interpose its authority to
form new States out of it, and to prescribe rules for elections to a
constitutional convention. What sort of sovereignty was this?
Moreover, since Texas claimed a part of New Mexico, endless
litigations would follow. In the judgment of the committee, it would
be far wiser to organize the usual territorial governments for
California and New Mexico.[270]

To these sensible objections, Douglas replied ineffectively. The
question of sovereignty, he thought, did not depend upon the size of a
State: without doing violence to the sovereignty of California,
Congress could surely carve new States out of its territory; but if
there were doubts on this point, he would move to add the saving
clause, "with the consent of the State." He suggested no expedient for
the other obstacles in the way of State sovereignty. As for
precedents, there were the first three States admitted into the
Union,--Kentucky, Vermont, and Tennessee,--none of which had any
organized government recognized by Congress.[271] They never furnished
their constitutions to Congress for inspection. Here Douglas hit wide
of the mark. No one had contended that a State must present a written
constitution before being recognized, but only that the people must
have some form of political organization, before they could be treated
as constituting a State in a constitutional sense.[272]

At the same time, halting as this defense was, Douglas gave ample
proof of his disinterestedness in advocating a State government for
California. "I think, Sir," he said, "that the only issue now
presented, is whether you will admit California as a State, or whether
you will leave it without government, exposed to all the horrors of
anarchy and violence. I have no hope of a Territorial government this
session. No man is more willing to adopt such a form of government
than I would be; no man would work with more energy and assiduity to
accomplish that object at this session than I would."[273] Indeed, so
far from questioning his motives, the members of the Judiciary
Committee quite overwhelmed Douglas by their extreme deference.[274]
Senator Butler, the chairman, assured him that the committee was
disposed to treat the bill with all the respect due to its author; for
his own part, he had always intended to show marked respect to the
Senator from Illinois.[275] Douglas responded somewhat grimly that he
was quite at a loss to understand "why these assurances came so thick
on this point."

Most men would have accepted the situation as thoroughly hopeless; but
Douglas was nothing if not persistent. In quick succession he framed
two more bills, one of which provided for a division of California and
for the admission of the western part as a State;[276] and then when
this failed to win support, he reverted to Folk's suggestion--the
admission of New Mexico and California as two States.[277] But the
Senate evinced no enthusiasm for this patch-work legislation.[278]

The difficulty of legislating for California was increased by the
disaffection of the Southern wing of the Democratic party. Calhoun was
suspected of fomenting a conspiracy to break up the Union.[279] Yet in
all probability he contemplated only the formation of a distinctly
Southern party based on common economic and political interests.[280]
He not only failed in this, because Southern Whigs were not yet ready
to break with their Northern associates; but he barely avoided
breaking up the solidarity of Southern Democrats, and he made it
increasingly difficult for Northern and Southern Democrats to act
together in matters which did not touch the peculiar institution of
the South.[281] Thenceforth, harmonious party action was possible only
through a deference of Northern Democrats to Southern, which was
perpetually misinterpreted by their opponents.

Senator Hale thought the course of Northern representatives and
senators pusillanimous and submissive to the last degree; and no
considerations of taste prevented him from expressing his opinions on
all occasions. Nettled by his taunts, and no doubt sensitive to the
grain of truth in the charge, perplexed also by the growing
factionalism in his party, Douglas retorted that the fanaticism of
certain elements at the North was largely responsible for the growth
of sectional rancor. For the first time he was moved to state publicly
his maturing belief in the efficacy of squatter sovereignty, as a
solvent of existing problems in the public domain.

"Sir, if we wish to settle this question of slavery, let us banish
the agitation from these halls. Let us remove the causes which produce
it; let us settle the territories we have acquired, in a manner to
satisfy the honor and respect the feelings of every portion of the
Union.... Bring those territories into this Union as States upon an
equal footing with the original States. Let the people of such States
settle the question of slavery within their limits, as they would
settle the question of banking, or any other domestic institution,
according to their own will."[282]

And again, he said, "No man advocates the extension of slavery over a
territory now free. On the other hand, they deny the propriety of
Congress interfering to restrain, upon the great fundamental principle
that the people are the source of all power; that from the people must
emanate all government; that the people have the same right in these
territories to establish a government for themselves that we have to
overthrow our present government and establish another, if we please,
or that any other government has to establish one for itself."[283]

Not the least interesting thing about these utterances, is the fact
that even Douglas could not now avoid public reference to the slavery
question. He could no longer point to needed legislation quite apart
from sectional interests; he could no longer treat slavery with
assumed indifference; he could no longer affect to rise above such
petty, local concerns to matters of national importance. He was now
bound to admit that slavery stood squarely in the way of national
expansion. This change of attitude was brought about in part, at
least, by external pressure applied by the legislature of Illinois.
With no little chagrin, he was forced to present resolutions from his
own State legislature, instructing him and his colleagues in Congress
to use their influence to secure the prohibition of slavery in the
Mexican cession.[284] It was not easy to harmonize these instructions
with the principle of non-interference which he had just enunciated.

Ten days before the close of the session, the California question
again came to the fore. Senator Walker of Wisconsin proposed a rider
to the appropriations bill, which would extend the Constitution and
laws in such a way as to authorize the President to set up a
quasi-territorial government, in the country acquired from
Mexico.[285] It was a deliberate hold-up, justified only by the
exigencies of the case, as Walker admitted. But could Congress thus
extend the Constitution, by this fiat? questioned Webster. The
Constitution extends over newly acquired territory _proprio vigore_,
replied Calhoun.[286] Douglas declined to enter into the subtle
questions of constitutional law thus raised. The "metaphysics" of the
subject did not disturb him. If the Senate would not pass his
statehood bill, he was for the Walker amendment. A fearful
responsibility rested upon Congress. The sad fate of a family from his
own State, which had moved to California, had brought home to him the
full measure of his responsibility. He was not disposed to quibble
over points of law, while American citizens in California were
exposed to the outrages of desperadoes, and of deserters from our own
army and navy.[287]

While the Senate yielded to necessity and passed the appropriations
bill, rider and all, the House stubbornly clung to its bill organizing
a territorial government for California, excluding slavery.[288] The
following days were among the most exciting in the history of
Congress. A conference committee was unable to reach any agreement.
Then Douglas tried to seize the psychological moment to persuade the
Senate to accept the House bill. "I have tried to get up State bills,
territorial bills, and all kinds of bills in all shapes, in the hope
that some bill, in some shape, would satisfy the Senate; but thus far
I have found their taste in relation to this matter too fastidious for
my humble efforts. Now I wish to make another and a final effort on
this bill, to see if the Senate are disposed to do anything towards
giving a government to the people of California."[289]

Both Houses continued in session far into the night of March 3d.
Sectional feeling ran high. Two fist-fights occurred in the House and
at least one in the Senate.[290] It seemed as though Congress would
adjourn, leaving our civil and diplomatic service penniless. Douglas
frankly announced that for his part he would rather leave our
office-holders without salaries, than our citizens without the
protection of law.[291] Inauguration Day was dawning when the
dead-lock was broken. The Senate voted the appropriations bill
without the rider, but failed to act on the House bill.[292] The
people of California were thus left to their own devices.

The outcome was disheartening to the chairman of the Committee on
Territories. His programme had miscarried at every important point.
Only his bill for the organization of Minnesota became law.[293] A
similar bill for Nebraska failed to receive consideration. The future
of California remained problematic. Indeed, political changes in
Illinois made his own future somewhat problematic.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 247: This was Benton's opinion; see _Globe_, 30 Cong., 1
Sess., p. 804.]

[Footnote 248: _Ibid._, pp. 136, 309.]

[Footnote 249: See remarks of Mason of Virginia, _Globe_, 30 Cong., 1
Sess., p. 903.]

[Footnote 250: _Ibid._, p. 950. The bill is printed on pp. 1002-1005.]

[Footnote 251: _Ibid._, p. 1007.]

[Footnote 252: _Ibid._, p. 1002.]

[Footnote 253: _Ibid._, p. 1027.]

[Footnote 254: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1048.]

[Footnote 255: _Ibid._, p. 1061.]

[Footnote 256: _Ibid._, pp. 1061-1062.]

[Footnote 257: _Ibid._, pp. 1062-1063.]

[Footnote 258: Douglas voted finally to recede from his amendment,
_Ibid._, p. 1078.]

[Footnote 259: Stanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 236.]

[Footnote 260: Garrison, Westward Extension, p. 284.]

[Footnote 261: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for November 13, 1848.]

[Footnote 262: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 263: See Douglas's Speech of December 23, 1851.]

[Footnote 264: Polk, MS. Diary, Entry for December 11, 1848.]

[Footnote 265: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 21.]

[Footnote 266: Hunt, Genesis of California's First Constitution, in
Johns Hopkins University Studies, XIII, pp. 16, 30.]

[Footnote 267: Polk, MS. Diary, Entries for December 11, 12, 13, 14,

[Footnote 268: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 46-49.]

[Footnote 269: See the petition of the people of New Mexico, _Ibid._,
p. 33.]

[Footnote 270: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 190-192.]

[Footnote 271: _Ibid._, pp. 192-193.]

[Footnote 272: _Ibid._, p. 196; particularly the incisive reply of

[Footnote 273: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 193.]

[Footnote 274: _Ibid._, p. 196.]

[Footnote 275: _Ibid._, p. 194.]

[Footnote 276: _Ibid._, p. 262.]

[Footnote 277: _Ibid._, p. 381.]

[Footnote 278: _Ibid._, pp. 435, 551, 553.]

[Footnote 279: Von Holst, Constitutional History of the United States,
III, p. 418.]

[Footnote 280: Calhoun, Works, VI, pp. 290-303.]

[Footnote 281: Von Holst, Const. History, III, pp. 422-423.]

[Footnote 282: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 208.]

[Footnote 283: _Ibid._, p. 314.]

[Footnote 284: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 394.]

[Footnote 285: _Ibid._, p. 561.]

[Footnote 286: _Ibid._, App., pp. 253 ff. The debate summarized by Von
Holst, III, pp. 444-451.]

[Footnote 287: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., App., pp. 275-276.]

[Footnote 288: _Ibid._, pp. 595, 665.]

[Footnote 289: _Ibid._, p. 668.]

[Footnote 290: Mann, Life of Horace Mann, p. 277.]

[Footnote 291: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 685.]

[Footnote 292: _Globe_, 30 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 691-692.]

[Footnote 293: _Ibid._, pp. 635-637; p. 693.]





When Douglas took his seat in Congress for the first time, an unknown
man in unfamiliar surroundings, he found as his near neighbor, one
David S. Reid, a young lawyer from North Carolina, who was of his own
age, of his own party, and like him, serving a first term. An
acquaintance sprang up between these young Democrats, which, in spite
of their widely different antecedents, deepened into intimacy. It was
a friendship that would have meant much to Douglas, even if it had not
led to an interesting romance. Intercourse with this able young
Southerner[294] opened the eyes of this Western Yankee to the finer
aspects of Southern social life, and taught him the quality of that
Southern aristocracy, which, when all has been said, was the truest
aristocracy that America has seen. And when Reid entertained his
friends and relatives in Washington, Douglas learned also to know the
charm of Southern women.

Among the most attractive of these visitors was Reid's cousin, Miss
Martha Denny Martin, daughter of Colonel Robert Martin of Rockingham
County, North Carolina. Rumor has it that Douglas speedily fell
captive to the graces of this young woman. She was not only charming
in manner and fair of face, but keen-witted and intelligent. In spite
of the gay badinage with which she treated this young Westerner, she
revealed a depth and positiveness of character, to which indeed her
fine, broad forehead bore witness on first acquaintance. In the give
and take of small talk she more than held her own, and occasionally
discomfited her admirer by sallies which were tipped with wit and
reached their mark unerringly.[295] Did she know that just such
treatment--strange paradox--won, while it at times wounded, the heart
of the unromantic Westerner?

Colonel Robert Martin was a typical, western North Carolina planter.
He belonged to that stalwart line of Martins whose most famous
representative was Alexander, of Revolutionary days, six times
Governor of the State. On the banks of the upper Dan, Colonel Martin
possessed a goodly plantation of about eight hundred acres, upon which
negro slaves cultivated cotton and such of the cereals as were needed
for home consumption.[296] Like other planters, he had felt the
competition of the virgin lands opened up to cotton culture in the
gulf plains of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana; and like his
fellow planters, he had invested in these Western lands, on the Pearl
River in Mississippi. This Pearl River plantation was worked by about
one hundred and fifty negroes and was devoted to the raising of

When Douglas accepted Reid's invitation to visit North Carolina, the
scene of the romance begun on the Potomac shifted to the banks of the
Dan. Southern hospitality became more than a conventional phrase on
Douglas's lips. He enjoyed a social privilege which grew rarer as
North and South fell apart. Intercourse like this broke down many of
those prejudices unconsciously cherished by Northerners. Slavery in
the concrete, on a North Carolina plantation, with a kindly master
like Colonel Martin,[297] bore none of the marks of a direful tyranny.
Whatever may have been his mental reservations as to slavery as a
system of labor, Douglas could not fail to feel the injustice of the
taunts hurled against his Southern friends by the Abolitionist press.
As he saw the South, the master was not a monster of cruelty, nor the
slave a victim of malevolent violence.

The romance on the banks of the Dan flowed far more clearly and
smoothly toward its goal than the waters of that turbid stream. On
April 7, 1847, Miss Martin became the wife of the Honorable Stephen
Arnold Douglas, who had just become Senator from the State of
Illinois. It was in every way a fateful alliance. Next to his Illinois
environment, no external circumstance more directly shaped his career
than his marriage to the daughter of a North Carolina planter. The
subtle influences of a home and a wife dominated by Southern culture,
were now to work upon him. Constant intercourse with Southern men and
women emancipated him from the narrowness of his hereditary
environment.[298] He was bound to acquire an insight into the nature
of Southern life; he was compelled to comprehend, by the most tender
and intimate of human relationships, the meaning and responsibility
of a social order reared upon slave labor.

A year had hardly passed when the death of Colonel Martin left Mrs.
Douglas in possession of all his property in North Carolina. It had
been his desire to put his Pearl River plantation, the most valuable
of his holdings, in the hands of his son-in-law. But Douglas had
refused to accept the charge, not wishing to hold negroes. Indeed, he
had frankly told Colonel Martin that the family already held more
slaves than was profitable.[299] In his will, therefore, Colonel
Martin was constrained to leave his Mississippi plantation and slaves
to Mrs. Douglas and her children. It was characteristic of the man and
of his class, that his concern for his dependents followed him to the
grave. A codicil to his will provided, that if Mrs. Douglas should
have no children, the negroes together with their increase were to be
sent to Liberia, or to some other colony in Africa. By means of the
net proceeds of the last crop, they would be able to reach Africa and
have a surplus to aid them in beginning planting. "I trust in
Providence," wrote this kindly master, "she will have children and if
so I wish these negroes to belong to them, as nearly every head of the
family have expressed to me a desire to belong to you and your
children rather than go to Africa; and to set them free where they
are, would entail on them a greater curse, far greater in my opinion,
as well as in that of the intelligent among themselves, than to have a
humane master whose duty it would be to see they were properly
protected ... and properly provided for in sickness as well as in

The legacy of Colonel Martin gave a handle to Douglas's enemies. It
was easy to believe that he had fallen heir to slave property. That
the terms of the bequest were imperfectly known, did not deter the
opposition press from malevolent insinuations which stung Douglas to
the quick. It was fatal to his political career to allow them to go
unchallenged. In the midsummer of 1850, while Congress was wrestling
with the measures of compromise, Douglas wrote to his friend, the
editor of the Illinois _State Register_," It is true that my wife does
own about 150 negroes in Mississippi on a cotton plantation. My
father-in-law in his lifetime offered them to me and I refused to
accept them. _This fact is stated in his will_, but I do not wish it
brought before the public as the public have no business with my
private affairs, and besides anybody would see that the information
must have come from me. My wife has no negroes except those in
Mississippi. We have other property in North Carolina, but no negroes.
It is our intention, however, to remove all our property to Illinois
as soon as possible."[301] To correct the popular rumor, Douglas
enclosed a statement which might be published editorially, or

The dictated statement read as follows: "The Quincy _Whig_ and other
Whig papers are publishing an article purporting to be copied from a
Mississippi paper abusing Judge Douglas as the owner of 100 slaves
and at the same time accusing him of being a Wilmot Free-soiler. That
the article originated in this State, and was sent to Mississippi for
publication in order that it might be re-published here we shall not
question nor take the trouble to prove. The paternity of the article,
the malice that prompted it, and the misrepresentations it contains
are too obvious to require particular notice. If it had been written
by a Mississippian he would have known that the statement in regard to
the ownership of the negroes was totally untrue. No one will pretend
that Judge Douglas has any other property in Mississippi than that
which was acquired in the right of his wife by inheritance upon the
death of her father, and anyone who will take the trouble to examine
the statutes of that State in the Secretary's office in this City will
find that by the laws of Mississippi all the property of a married
woman, whether acquired by will, gift or otherwise, becomes her
separate and exclusive estate and is not subject to the control or
disposal of her husband nor subject to his debts. We do not pretend to
know whether the father of Mrs. Douglas at the time of his death owned
slaves in Mississippi or not. We have heard the statement made by the
Whigs but have not deemed it of sufficient importance to inquire into
its truth. If it should turn out so, in no event could Judge Douglas
become the owner or have the disposal of or be responsible for them.
The laws of the State forbid it, and also forbid slaves under such
circumstances from being removed without or emancipated within the
limits of the State."

Born a Yankee, bred a Westerner, wedded to the mistress of a Southern
plantation, Douglas represented a Commonwealth whose population was
made up of elements from all sections. The influences that shaped his
career were extraordinarily complex. No account of his subsequent
public life would be complete, without reference to the peculiar
social and political characteristics of his constituency.

The people of early Illinois were drawn southward by the pull of
natural forces: the Mississippi washes the western border on its
gulf-ward course; and the chief rivers within the State have a general
southerly trend.[302] But quite as important historically is the
convergence of the Ohio, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee on the
southern border of Illinois; for it was by these waterways that the
early settlers reached the Illinois Territory from the States of
Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. The apex of the
irregular, inverted triangle of Illinois, thrust down to the 37th
parallel of latitude, brought the first settlers well within the
sphere of Southern influence. Two slave States flanked this southern
end. Nearly one-half of Illinois lay south of a direct, westward
extension of Mason and Dixon's line.

In the early days, the possession by the Indians of the northern areas
accentuated the southern connections of Illinois. At the same time the
absence at the North of navigable waterways and passable highways
between East and West, left the Ohio and its tributaries the only
connecting lines of travel with the remote northern Atlantic States.
Had Illinois been admitted into the Union with the boundaries first
proposed, it would have been, by all those subtle influences which go
to make public sentiment, a Southern State. But the extension of the
northern boundary to 42° 30' gave Illinois a frontage of fifty miles
on Lake Michigan, and deflected the whole political and social history
of the Commonwealth. This contact with the great waterways of the
North brought to the State, in the course of time, an immense share of
the lake traffic and a momentous connection with the northern central
and northern Atlantic States. The passing of the Indians, the opening
up of the great northern prairies to occupation, and the completion of
the Illinois-Michigan canal made the northern part of Illinois fallow
for New England seeding. Geographically, Illinois became the
connecting link in the slender chain which bound the men of the lake
and prairie plains with the men of the gulf plains. The inevitable
interpenetration of Northern and Southern interests in Illinois,
resulting from these contacts, is the most important fact in the
social and political history of the State. It bred in Illinois
statesmen a disposition to compromise for the sake of political
harmony and economic progress, a passionate attachment to the Union as
the _sine qua non_ of State unity, and a glowing nationalism. Illinois
was in short a microcosm: the larger problems of the nation existed
there in miniature.

When Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818, all the organized
counties lay to the south of the projected national road between Terre
Haute and Alton, hence well within the sphere of surrounding Southern
influences. The society of Illinois was at this time predominantly
Southern in its origin and characteristics.[303] Social life and
political thought were shaped by Southern life and Southern thought.
Whatever points of contact there were with the outside world were with
the Southern world. The movement to make Illinois a slave State was
motived by the desire to accelerate immigration from the South.

But people had already begun to come into the State who were not of
Southern origin, and who succeeded in deflecting the current of
Illinois politics at this critical juncture. The fertile river bottoms
and intervening prairies of southern Illinois no longer sufficed. The
new comers were impelled toward the great, undulating prairies which
expand above the 39th parallel. The rise of new counties marks the
volume of this immigration;[304] the attitude of the older settlers
toward it, fixes sufficiently its general social character. This was
the beginning of the "Yankee" invasion, New York and Pennsylvania
furnishing the vanguard.

As the northern prairies became accessible by the lake route and the
stage roads, New England and New York poured a steady stream of
homeseekers into the Commonwealth. By the middle of the century, this
Northern immigration had begun to inundate the northern counties and
to overflow into the interior, where it met and mingled with the
counter-current. These Yankee settlers were viewed with hostility, not
unmixed with contempt, by those whose culture and standards of taste
had been formed south of Mason and Dixon's line.[305]

This sectional antagonism was strengthened by the rapid commercial
advance of northern Illinois. Yankee enterprise and thrift worked
wonders in a decade. Governor Ford, all of whose earlier associations
were with the people of southern Illinois, writing about the middle of
the century, admits that although the settlers in the southern part of
the State were twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty years in advance, on
the score of age, they were ten years behind in point of wealth and
all the appliances of a higher civilization.[306] The completion of
the canal between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, however much
it might contribute to the general welfare of the State, seemed likely
to profit the northern rather than the southern portion. It had been
opposed at the outset by Southerners, who argued soberly that it would
flood the State with Yankees;[307] and at every stage in its progress
it had encountered Southern obstruction, though the grounds for this
opposition were more wisely chosen.

Political ideals and customs were also a divisive force in Illinois
society. True to their earlier political training, the Southern
settlers had established the county as a unit of local government. The
Constitution of 1818 put the control of local concerns in the hands of
three county commissioners, who, though elected by the people, were
not subjected to that scrutiny which selectmen encountered in the New
England town meeting. To the democratic New Englander, every system
seemed defective which gave him no opportunity to discuss neighborhood
interests publicly, and to call local officers to account before an
assembly of the vicinage. The new comers in northern Illinois became
profoundly dissatisfied with the autocratic board of county
commissioners. Since the township might act as a corporate body for
school purposes, why might they not enjoy the full measure of township
government? Their demands grew more and more insistent, until they won
substantial concessions from the convention which framed the
Constitution of 1848. But all this agitation involved a more or less
direct criticism of the system which the people of southern Illinois
thought good enough for Yankees, if it were good enough for

In the early history of Illinois, negro slavery was a bone of
contention between men of Northern and of Southern antecedents. When
Illinois was admitted as a State, there were over seven hundred
negroes held in servitude. In spite of the Ordinance of 1787, Illinois
was practically a slave Territory. There were, to be sure, stalwart
opponents of slavery even among those who had come from slave-holding
communities; but taken in the large, public opinion in the Territory
sanctioned negro slavery as it existed under a loose system of
indenture.[309] Even the Constitution of 1818, under which Illinois
came into the Union as a free State, continued the old system of
indenture with slight modification.[310]

It was in the famous contest over the proposed constitutional
convention of 1824 that the influence of Northern opinion respecting
slavery was first felt. The contest had narrowed down to a struggle
between those who desired a convention in order to draft a
constitution legalizing slavery and those who, from policy or
principle, were opposed to slavery in Illinois. Men of Southern birth
were, it is true, among the most aggressive leaders of the
anti-convention forces, but the decisive votes against the convention
were cast in the seven counties recently organized, in which there was
a strong Northern element.[311]

This contest ended, the anti-slavery sentiment evaporated. The "Black
Laws" continued in force. Little or no interest was manifested in the
fate of indentured black servants, who were to all intents and
purposes as much slaves as their southern kindred. The leaven of
Abolitionism worked slowly in Illinois society. By an almost unanimous
vote, the General Assembly adopted joint resolutions in 1837 which
condemned Abolitionism as "more productive of evil than of moral and
political good." There were then not a half-dozen anti-slavery
societies in the State, and these soon learned to confine their labors
to central and northern Illinois, abandoning Egypt as hopelessly
inaccessible to the light.[312]

The issues raised by the Mexican War and the prospective acquisition
of new territory, materially changed the temper of northern Illinois.
Moreover, in the later forties a tide of immigration from the
northeastern States, augmented by Germans who came in increasing
numbers after the European agitation of 1848, was filling the
northernmost counties with men and women who held positive convictions
on the question of slavery extension. These transplanted New
Englanders were outspoken advocates of the Wilmot Proviso. When they
were asked to vote upon that article of the Constitution of 1848 which
proposed to prevent the immigration of free negroes, the fourteen
northern counties voted no, only to find themselves outvoted two to
one.[313] A new factor had appeared in Illinois politics.

Many and diverse circumstances contributed to the growth of
sectionalism in Illinois. The disruptive forces, however, may be
easily overestimated. The unifying forces in Illinois society were
just as varied, and in the long run more potent. As in the nation at
large so in Illinois, religious, educational, and social organizations
did much to resist the strain of countervailing forces. But no
organization proved in the end so enduring and effective as the
political party. Illinois had by 1840 two well-developed party
organizations, which enveloped the people of the State, as on a large
scale they embraced the nation. These parties came to have an
enduring, institutional character. Men were born Democrats and Whigs.
Southern and Northern Whigs, Northern and Southern Democrats there
were, of course; but the necessity of harmony for effective action
tended to subordinate individual and group interests to the larger
good of the whole. Parties continued to be organized on national
lines, after the churches had been rent in twain by sectional forces.
Of the two party organizations in Illinois, the Democratic party was
numerically the larger, and in point of discipline, the more
efficient. It was older; it had been the first to adopt the system of
State and district nominating conventions; it had the advantage of
prestige and of the possession of office. The Democratic party could
"point with pride" to an unbroken series of victories in State and
presidential elections. By successful gerrymanders it had secured the
lion's share of congressional districts. Above all it had intelligent
leadership. The retirement of Senator Breese left Stephen A. Douglas
the undisputed leader of the party.

The dual party system in Illinois, as well as in the nation, was
seriously threatened by the appearance of a third political
organization with hostility to slavery as its cohesive force. The
Liberty party polled its first vote in Illinois in the campaign of
1840, when its candidate for the presidency received 160 votes.[314]
Four years later its total vote in Illinois was 3,469, a notable
increase.[315] The distribution of these votes, however, is more
noteworthy than their number, for in no county did the vote amount to
more than thirty per cent of the total poll of all parties. The
heaviest Liberty vote was in the northern counties. The votes cast in
the central and southern parts of the State were indicative, for the
most part, of a Quaker or New England element in the population.[316]
As yet the older parties had no reason to fear for their prestige; but
in 1848 the Liberty party gave place to the Free-Soil party, which
developed unexpected strength in the presidential vote. It rallied
anti-slavery elements by its cry of "Free Soil, Free Speech, Free
Labor, and Free Men!" and for the first time broke the serried ranks
of the older parties. Van Buren, the candidate of the Free-Soilers,
received a vote of 15,774, concentrated in the northeastern counties,
but reaching formidable proportions in the counties of the northwest
and west.[317] Of the older organizations, the Whig party seemed less
affected, Taylor having received 53,047 votes, an increase of 7,519
over the Whig vote of 1844. The Democratic candidate, Cass, received
only 56,300, an absolute decrease of 1,620. This was both an absolute
and a relative decline, for the total voting population had increased
by 24,459. Presumptive evidence points to a wholesale desertion of the
party by men of strong anti-slavery convictions. Whither they had
gone--whether into the ranks of Whigs or Free-Soilers,--concerned
Democratic leaders less than the palpable fact that they had gone

At the close of this eventful year, the political situation in
Illinois was without precedent. To offset Democratic losses in the
presidential election, there were, to be sure, the usual Democratic
triumphs in State and district elections. But the composition of the
legislature was peculiar. On the vote for Speaker of the House, the
Democrats showed a handsome majority: there was no sign of a third
party vote. A few days later the following resolution was carried by a
vote which threw the Democratic ranks into confusion: "That our
senators in Congress be instructed, and our representatives requested,
to use all honorable means in their power, to procure the enactment of
such laws by Congress for the government of the countries and
territories of the United States, acquired by the treaty of peace,
friendship, limits, and settlement, with the republic of Mexico,
concluded February 2, A.D. 1848; as shall contain the express
declaration, that there shall be neither slavery, nor involuntary
servitude in said territories, otherwise than for the punishment of
crimes, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."[318]

At least fifteen representatives of what had hitherto been Democratic
constituencies, had combined with the Whigs to embarrass the
Democratic delegation at Washington.[319] Their expectation seems to
have been that they could thus force Senator Douglas to resign his
seat, for he had been an uncompromising opponent of the Wilmot
Proviso. Free-Soilers, Whigs, and Northern Democrats with anti-slavery
leanings had voted for the instructions; only the Democrats from the
southern counties voted solidly to sustain the Illinois delegation in
its opposition to the Proviso.[320] While not a strict sectional vote,
it showed plainly enough the rift in the Democratic party. A
disruptive issue had been raised. For the moment a re-alignment of
parties on geographical lines seemed imminent. This was precisely the
trend in national politics at this moment.

There was a traditional remedy for this sectional malady--compromise.
It was an Illinois senator, himself a slave-owner, who had proposed
the original Missouri proviso. Senator Douglas had repeatedly proposed
to extend the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific, in the same
spirit in which compromise had been offered in 1820, but the essential
conditions for a compromise on this basis were now wanting.

It was precisely at this time, when the Illinois legislature was
instructing him to reverse his attitude toward the Wilmot Proviso,
that Senator Douglas began to change his policy. Believing that the
combination against him in the legislature was largely accidental and
momentary, he refused to resign.[321] Events amply justified his
course; but the crisis was not without its lessons for him. The
futility of a compromise based on an extension of the Missouri
Compromise line was now apparent. Opposition to the extension of
slavery was too strong; and belief in the free status of the acquired
territory too firmly rooted in the minds of his constituents. There
remained the possibility of reintegrating the Democratic party through
the application of the principle of "squatter sovereignty," Was it
possible to offset the anti-slavery sentiment of his Northern
constituents by an insistent appeal to their belief in local

The taproot from which squatter sovereignty grew and flourished, was
the instinctive attachment of the Western American to local
government; or to put the matter conversely, his dislike of external
authority. So far back as the era of the Revolution, intense
individualism, bold initiative, strong dislike of authority, elemental
jealousy of the fruits of labor, and passionate attachment to the soil
that has been cleared for a home, are qualities found in varying
intensity among the colonists from New Hampshire to Georgia. Nowhere,
however, were they so marked as along the Western border, where
centrifugal forces were particularly strong and local attachments were
abnormally developed. Under stress of real or fancied wrongs, it was
natural for settlers in these frontier regions to meet for joint
protest, or if the occasion were grave enough, to enter into political
association, to resist encroachment upon what they felt to be their
natural rights. Whenever they felt called upon to justify their
course, they did so in language that repeated, consciously or
unconsciously, the theory of the social contract, with which the
political thought of the age was surcharged. In these frontier
communities was born the political habit that manifested itself on
successive frontiers of American advance across the continent, and
that finally in the course of the slavery controversy found apt
expression in the doctrine of squatter sovereignty.[322]

None of the Territories carved out of the original Northwest had shown
greater eagerness for separate government than Illinois. The isolation
of the original settlements grouped along the Mississippi, their
remoteness from the seat of territorial government on the Wabash, and
the consequent difficulty of obtaining legal protection and efficient
government, predisposed the people of Illinois to demand a territorial
government of their own, long before Congress listened to their
memorials. Bitter controversy and even bloodshed attended their

A generation later a similar contest occurred for the separation of
the fourteen northern counties from the State. When Congress changed
the northern boundary of Illinois, it had deviated from the express
provisions of the Ordinance of 1787, which had drawn the line through
the southern bend of Lake Michigan. This departure from the Magna
Charta of the Northwest furnished the would-be secessionists with a
pretext. But an editorial in the _Northwestern Gazette and Galena
Advertiser_, January 20, 1842, naively disclosed their real motive.
Illinois was overwhelmed with debt, while Wisconsin was "young,
vigorous, and free from debt." "Look at the district as it is now,"
wrote the editor fervidly, "the _fag end_ of the State of
Illinois--its interest wholly disregarded in State legislation--in
short, treated as a mere _province_--taxed; laid under tribute in the
form of taxation for the benefit of the South and Middle." The right
of the people to determine by vote whether the counties should be
annexed to Illinois, was accepted without question. A meeting of
citizens in Jo Daviess County resolved, that "until the Ordinance of
1787 was altered by common consent, the free inhabitants of the region
had, in common with the free inhabitants of the Territory of
Wisconsin, an absolute, vested, indefeasible right to form a permanent
constitution and State government."[324] This was the burden of many
memorials of similar origin.

The desire of the people of Illinois to control local interests
extended most naturally to the soil which nourished them. That the
Federal Government should without their consent dispose of lands which
they had brought under cultivation, seemed to verge on tyranny. It
mattered not that the settler had taken up lands to which he had no
title in law. The wilderness belonged to him who subdued it.
Therefore land leagues and claim associations figure largely in the
history of the Northwest. Their object was everywhere the same, to
protect the squatter against the chance bidder at a public land sale.

The concessions made by the constitutional convention of 1847, in the
matter of local government, gave great satisfaction to the Northern
element in the State. The new constitution authorized the legislature
to pass a general law, in accordance with which counties might
organize by popular vote under a township system. This mode of
settling a bitter and protracted controversy was thoroughly in accord
with the democratic spirit of northern Illinois. The newspapers of the
northern counties welcomed the inauguration of the township system as
a formal recognition of a familiar principle. Said the _Will County
Telegraph_:[325] "The great principle on which the new system is based
is this: that except as to those things which pertain to State unity
and those which are in their nature common to the whole county, it is
right that each small community should regulate its own local matters
without interference." It was this sentiment to which popular
sovereignty made a cogent appeal.

No man was more sensitive than Senator Douglas to these subtle
influences of popular tradition, custom, and current sentiment. Under
the cumulative impression of the events which have been recorded, his
confidence in popular sovereignty as an integrating force in national
and local politics increased, and his public utterances became more
assured and positive.[326] By the close of the year 1850, he had the
satisfaction of seeing the collapse of the Free-Soil party in
Illinois, and of knowing that the joint resolutions had been repealed
which had so nearly accomplished his overthrow. A political storm had
been weathered. Yet the diverse currents in Illinois society might
again roil local politics. So long as a bitter commercial rivalry
divided northern and southern Illinois, and social differences held
the sections apart, misunderstandings dangerous to party and State
alike would inevitably follow. How could these diverse elements be
fused into a true and enduring union? To this task Douglas set his
hand. The ways and means which he employed, form one of the most
striking episodes in his career.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 294: Reid was afterward Governor of North Carolina and
United States Senator.]

[Footnote 295: For many of the facts relating to Douglas's courtship
and marriage, I am indebted to his son, Judge Robert Martin Douglas,
of North Carolina.]

[Footnote 296: At the death of Colonel Martin, this plantation was
worked by some seventeen slaves, according to his will.]

[Footnote 297: This impression is fully confirmed by the terms of his

[Footnote 298: He was himself fully conscious of this influence. See
his speech at Raleigh, August 30, 1860.]

[Footnote 299: The facts are so stated in Colonel Martin's will, for a
transcript of which I am indebted to Judge R.M. Douglas.]

[Footnote 300: Extract from the will of Colonel Martin.]

[Footnote 301: This letter, dated August 3, 1850, is in the possession
of Mrs. James W. Patton of Springfield, Illinois.]

[Footnote 302: The characteristics of Illinois as a constituency in
1850 are set forth in greater detail, in an article by the writer in
the _Iowa Journal of History and Politics_, July, 1905.]

[Footnote 303: See Patterson, Early Society in Southern Illinois in
the Fergus Historical Series, No. 14. Also Ford, History of Illinois,
pp. 38, 279-280; and Greene, Sectional forces in the History of
Illinois--in the Publications of Illinois Historical Library, 1903.]

[Footnote 304: Between 1818 and 1840, fifty-seven new counties were
organized, of which fourteen lay in the region given to Illinois by
the shifting of the northern boundary. See Publications of the
Illinois Historical Library, No. 8, pp. 79-80.]

[Footnote 305: Ford, History of Illinois, pp. 280-281.]

[Footnote 306: _Ibid._, p. 280.]

[Footnote 307: See Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, Chapter on
"State Policy."]

[Footnote 308: Shaw, Local Government in Illinois, in the Johns
Hopkins University Studies, Vol. I; Newell, Township Government in

[Footnote 309: Harris, Negro Servitude in Illinois, Chapter II.]

[Footnote 310: _Ibid._, Chapter III. See Article VI of the

[Footnote 311: _Ibid._, Chapter IV. See also Moses, History of
Illinois, Vol. I, p. 324.]

[Footnote 312: Harris, Negro Servitude, pp. 125, 136-357]

[Footnote 313: Journal of the Constitutional Convention of 1847, pp.

[Footnote 314: _Whig Almanac_, 1841.]

[Footnote 315: _Ibid._, 1845.]

[Footnote 316: Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, pp. 326-327.]

[Footnote 317: Smith, Liberty and Free Soil Parties, pp. 328-329.]

[Footnote 318: House Journal, p. 52.]

[Footnote 319: All these fifteen voted for the Democratic candidate
for Speaker of the House.]

[Footnote 320: House Journal, p. 52; Senate Journal, p. 44. See also
Harris, Negro Servitude in Illinois, p. 177.]

[Footnote 321: See Speech in Senate, December 23, 1851.]

[Footnote 322: See the writer's article on "The Genesis of Popular
Sovereignty" in the _Iowa Journal of History and Politics_ for
January, 1905.]

[Footnote 323: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, pp. 241-242.]

[Footnote 324: _Northwestern Gazette_, March 19, 1842.]

[Footnote 325: September 27, 1849.]

[Footnote 326: Compare his utterances on the following dates: January
10, 1849; January 22, 1849; October 23, 1849 at Springfield, Illinois;
February 12, 1850; June 3, 1850.]



When Congress assembled in December, 1849, statesmen of the old
school, who could agree in nothing else, were of one mind in this: the
Union was in peril. In the impressive words of Webster, "the
imprisoned winds were let loose. The East, the North, and the stormy
South combined to throw the whole sea into commotion, to toss its
billows to the skies, and disclose its profoundest depths." Clay and
Calhoun were equally apprehensive. Yet there were younger men who
shared none of these fears. To be sure, the political atmosphere of
Washington was electric. The House spent weeks wrangling over the
Speakership, so that when the serious work of legislation began, men
were overwrought and excitable. California with a free constitution
was knocking at the door of the Union. President Taylor gave Congress
to understand that at no distant day the people of New Mexico would
take similar action. And then, as though he were addressing a body of
immortals, he urged Congress to await calmly the action of the people
of the Territories.

Douglas was among those unimpressionable younger men who would not
believe the Union to be in danger. Perhaps by his Southern connections
he knew better than most Northern men, the real temper of the South.
Perhaps he did not give way to the prevailing hysteria, because he was
diverted from the great issues by the pressing, particular interests
of his constituents. At all events, he had this advantage over Clay,
Webster, and Calhoun, that when he did turn his attention to schemes
of compromise, his vision was fresh, keen, and direct. He escaped that
subtle distortion of mental perception from which others were likely
to suffer because of long-sustained attention. To such, Douglas must
have seemed unemotional, unsensitive, and lacking in spiritual

Illinois with its North and its South was also facing a crisis. To the
social and political differences that bisected the State, was added a
keen commercial rivalry between the sections. While the State
legislature under northern control was appropriating funds for the
Illinois and Michigan canal, it exhibited far less liberality in
building railroads, which alone could be the arteries of traffic in
southern Illinois. At a time when railroads were extending their lines
westward from the Atlantic seaboard, and reaching out covetously for
the produce of the Mississippi Valley, Illinois held geographically a
commanding position. No roads could reach the great river, north of
the Ohio at least, without crossing her borders. The avenues of
approach were given into her keeping. To those who directed State
policy, it seemed possible to determine the commercial destinies of
the Commonwealth by controlling the farther course of the railroads
which now touched the eastern boundary. Well-directed effort, it was
thought, might utilize these railroads so as to build up great
commercial cities on the eastern shore of the Mississippi. State
policy required that none of these cross-roads should in any event
touch St. Louis, and thus make it, rather than the Illinois towns now
struggling toward commercial greatness, the entrepôt between East and
West. With its unrivalled site at the mouth of the Missouri, Alton was
as likely a competitor for the East and West traffic, and for the
Mississippi commerce, as St. Louis. Alton, then, must be made the
terminus of the cross-roads.[327]

The people of southern Illinois thought otherwise. Against the
background of such distant hopes, they saw a concrete reality. St.
Louis was already the market for their produce. From every railroad
which should cross the State and terminate at St. Louis, they
anticipated tangible profits. They could not see why these very real
advantages should be sacrificed on the altar of northern interests.
After the opening of the northern canal, they resented this exclusive
policy with increased bitterness.

Upon one point, and only one, the people of northern and southern
Illinois were agreed: they believed that every possible encouragement
should be given to the construction of a great central railroad, which
should cross the State from north to south. Such a railroad had been
projected as early as 1836 by a private corporation. Subsequently the
State took up the project, only to abandon it again to a private
company, after the bubble of internal improvements had been pricked.
Of this latter corporation,--the Great Western Railroad
Company,--Senator Breese was a director and the accredited agent in
Congress. It was in behalf of this corporation that he had petitioned
Congress unsuccessfully for pre-emption rights on the public

Circumstances enlisted Douglas's interest powerfully in the proposed
central railroad. These circumstances were partly private and
personal; partly adventitious and partly of his own making. The
growing sectionalism in Illinois gave politicians serious concern. It
was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the integrity of
political parties, when sectional issues were thrust into the
foreground of political discussion. Yankee and Southerner did not mix
readily in the caldron of State politics. But a central railroad which
both desired, might promote a mechanical mixture of social and
commercial elements. Might it not also, in the course of time, break
up provincial feeling, cause a transfusion of ideas, and in the end
produce an organic union?

In the summer of 1847, Senator-elect Douglas took up his residence in
Chicago, and identified himself with its commercial interests by
investing in real estate.[329] Few men have had a keener instinct for
speculation in land.[330] By a sort of sixth sense, he foresaw the
growth of the ugly but enterprising city on Lake Michigan. He saw that
commercially Chicago held a strategic position, commanding both the
lake traffic eastward, and the interior waterway gulfward by means of
the canal. As yet, however, these advantages were far from
realization. The city was not even included within the route of the
proposed central railroad. Influential business men, Eastern
capitalists, and shippers along the Great Lakes were not a little
exercised over this neglect. In some way the claims of Chicago must be
urged upon the promoters of the railroad. Just here Douglas could
give invaluable aid. He pointed out that if the railroad were to
secure a land grant, it would need Eastern votes in Congress. The old
Cairo-Galena line would seem like a sectional enterprise, likely to
draw trade down the Mississippi and away from the Atlantic seaports.
But if Chicago were connected with the system, as a terminal at the
north, the necessary congressional support might be secured.[331]

During the summer, Douglas canvassed the State, speaking repeatedly in
behalf of this larger project. For a time he hoped that Senator Breese
would co-operate with him. Numerous conferences took place both before
and after Congress had assembled; but Douglas found his colleague
reluctant to abandon his pre-emption plan. Regardless of the memorials
which poured in upon him from northern Illinois, Breese introduced his
bill for pre-emption rights on the public domain, in behalf of the
Holbrook Company, as the Great Western Railway Company was popularly
called. Thereupon Douglas offered a bill for a donation of public
lands to aid the State of Illinois in the construction of a central
railroad from Cairo to Galena, with a branch from Centralia to
Chicago.[332] Though Breese did not actively oppose his colleague, his
lack of cordiality no doubt prejudiced Congress against a grant of any
description. From the outset, Douglas's bill encountered obstacles:
the opposition of those who doubted the constitutional power of
Congress to grant lands for internal improvements of this sort; the
opposition of landless States, which still viewed the public domain
as a national asset from which revenue should be derived; and,
finally, the opposition of the old States to the new. Nevertheless,
the bill passed the Senate by a good majority. In the House it
suffered defeat, owing to the undisguised opposition of the South and
of the landless States both East and West. The Middle States showed
distrust and uncertainty. It was perfectly clear that before such a
project could pass the House, Eastern and Southern representatives
would have to be won over.[333]

After Congress adjourned, Douglas journeyed to the State of
Mississippi, ostensibly on a business trip to his children's
plantation. In the course of his travels, he found himself in the city
of Mobile--an apparent digression; but by a somewhat remarkable
coincidence he met certain directors of the Mobile Railroad in the
city. Now this corporation was in straits. Funds had failed and the
construction of the road had been arrested. The directors were casting
about in search of relief. Douglas saw his opportunity. He offered the
distraught officials an alliance. He would include in his Illinois
Central bill a grant of land for their road; in return, they were to
make sure of the votes of their senators and representatives.[334]
Such, at least, is the story told by Douglas; and some such bargain
may well have been made. Subsequent events give the color of veracity
to the tale.

When Douglas renewed his Illinois Central bill in a revised form on
January 3, 1850, Senator Breese had been succeeded by Shields, who was
well-disposed toward the project.[335] The fruits of the Mobile
conference were at once apparent. Senator King of Alabama offered an
amendment, proposing a similar donation of public lands to his State
and to Mississippi, for the purpose of continuing the projected
central railroad from the mouth of the Ohio to the port of Mobile.
Douglas afterward said that he had himself drafted this amendment, but
that he had thought best to have Senator King present it.[336] Be that
as it may, the suspicion of collusion between them can hardly be
avoided, since the amendment occasioned no surprise to the friends of
the bill and was adopted without division.

The project now before Congress was of vastly greater consequence than
the proposed grant to Illinois. Here was a bill of truly national
importance. It spoke for itself; it appealed to the dullest
imagination. What this amended bill contemplated, was nothing less
than a trunk line connecting the Great Lakes with the Gulf of Mexico.
Now, indeed, as Douglas well said, "nationality had been imparted to
the project," At the same time, it offered substantial advantages to
the two landless States which would be traversed by the railroad, as
well as to all the Gulf States. As thus devised, the bill seemed
reasonably sure to win votes.

Yet it must not be inferred that the bill passed smoothly to a third
reading. There was still much shaking of heads among senators of the
strict construction school. Many were conquered by expediency and
threw logic to the winds; some preferred to be consistent and spoil a
good cause. The bill did not sail on untroubled seas, even after it
had been steered clear of constitutional shoals. It narrowly ran foul
of that obstinate Western conviction, that the public lands belonged
of right to the home-seeker, to whose interests all such grants were
inimical, by reason of the increased price of adjoining sections of

The real battleground, however, was not the Senate, but the House. As
before, the bill passed the upper chamber by an ample margin of
votes.[338] In the lower house, there was no prolonged debate upon the
bill. Constitutional scruples do not seem to have been ruffled. The
main difficulty was to rivet the attention of the members. Several
times the bill was pushed aside and submerged by the volume of other
business. Finally, on the same day that it passed the last of the
compromise measures, on the 17th of September, 1850, the House passed
the Illinois Central Railroad bill by a vote of 101 to 75.[339]

A comparison of this vote with that on the earlier bill shows a change
of three votes in the Middle States, one in the South, ten in the Gulf
States, and five in Tennessee and Kentucky.[340] This was a triumphant
vindication of Douglas's sagacity, for whatever may have been the
services of his colleagues in winning Eastern votes,[341] it was his
bid for the vote of the Gulf States and of the landless, intervening
States of Kentucky and Tennessee which had been most effective. But
was all this anything more than the clever manoeuvering of an adroit
politician in a characteristic parliamentary game? A central railroad
through Illinois seemed likely to quell factional and sectional
quarrels in local politics; to merge Northern and Southern interests
within the Commonwealth; and to add to the fiscal resources of State
and nation. It was a good cause, but it needed votes in Congress.
Douglas became a successful procurator and reaped his reward in
increased popularity.

There is an aspect of this episode, however, which lifts it above a
mere log-rolling device to secure an appropriation. Here and there it
fired the imagination of men. There is abundant reason to believe that
the senior Senator from Illinois was not so sordid in his bargaining
for votes as he seemed. Above and apart from the commercial welfare of
the Lake Region, the Mississippi Valley, and the Gulf Plains, there
was an end subserved, which lay in the background of his consciousness
and which came to expression rarely if ever. Practical men may see
visions and dream dreams which they are reluctant to voice. There was
genuine emotion beneath the materialism of Senator Walker's remarks
(and he was reared in Illinois), when he said: "Anything that improves
the connection between the North and the South is a great enterprise.
To cross parallels of latitude, to enable the man of commerce to make
up his assorted cargo, is infinitely more important than anything you
can propose within the same parallels of latitude. I look upon it as a
great chain to unite North and South."[342] Senator Shields of
Illinois only voiced the inmost thought of Douglas, when he exclaimed,
"The measure is too grand, too magnificent a one to meet with such a
fate at the hands of Congress. And really, as it is to connect the
North and South so thoroughly, it may serve to get rid of even the
Wilmot Proviso, and tie us together so effectually that the idea of
separation will be impossible."[343]

The settlement of the West had followed parallels of latitude. The men
of the Lake Plains were transplanted New Englanders, New Yorkers,
Pennsylvanians; the men of the Gulf Plains came from south of Mason
and Dixon's line,--pioneers both, aggressive, bold in initiative, but
alienated by circumstances of tremendous economic significance. If
ever North should be arrayed against South, the makeweight in the
balance would be these pioneers of the Northwest and Southwest. It was
no mean conception to plan for the "man of commerce" who would cross
from one region to the other, with his "assorted cargo,"[344] for in
that cargo were the destinies of two sections and his greatest
commerce was to consist in the exchange of imponderable ideas. The
ideal which inspired Douglas never found nobler expression, than in
these words with which he replied to Webster's slighting reference to
the West:

"There is a power in this nation greater than either the North or the
South--a growing, increasing, swelling power, that will be able to
speak the law to this nation, and to execute the law as spoken. That
power is the country known as the great West--the Valley of the
Mississippi, one and indivisible from the gulf to the great lakes, and
stretching, on the one side and the other, to the extreme sources of
the Ohio and Missouri--from the Alleghanies to the Rocky mountains.
There, Sir, is the hope of this nation--the resting place of the power
that is not only to control, but to save, the Union. We furnish the
water that makes the Mississippi, and we intend to follow, navigate,
and use it until it loses itself in the briny ocean. So with the St.
Lawrence. We intend to keep open and enjoy both of these great outlets
to the ocean, and all between them we intend to take under our
especial protection, and keep and preserve as one free, happy, and
united people. This is the mission of the great Mississippi Valley,
the heart and soul of the nation and the continent."[345]

Meantime Congress was endeavoring to avert the clash of sections by
other measures of accommodation. The veteran Clay, in his favorite
rôle of peacemaker, had drafted a series of resolutions as a sort of
legislative programme; and with his old-time vigor, was pleading for
mutual forbearance. All wounds might be healed, he believed, by
admitting California with her free constitution; by organizing
territorial governments without any restriction as to slavery, in the
region acquired from Mexico; by settling the Texas boundary and the
Texas debt on a fair basis; by prohibiting the slave trade, but not
slavery, in the District of Columbia; and by providing more carefully
for the rendition of fugitive slaves. Clay, Calhoun, and Webster had
spoken with all the weight of their years upon these propositions,
before Douglas was free to address the Senate.

It was characteristic of Douglas that he chose to speak on the
concrete question raised by the application of California for
admission into the Union. His opening words betrayed no elevation of
feeling, no alarmed patriotism transcending party lines, no great
moral uplift. He made no direct reference to the state of the public
mind. Clay began with an invocation; Webster pleaded for a hearing,
not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man, but as an American
and as a Senator, with the preservation of the Union as his theme;
Douglas sprang at once to the defense of his party. With the brush of
a partisan, he sketched the policy of Northern Democrats in advocating
the annexation of Texas, repudiating the insinuations of Webster that
Texas had been sought as a slave State. He would not admit that the
whole of Texas was bound to be a slave Territory. By the very terms of
annexation, provision had been made for admitting free States out of
Texas. As for Webster's "law of nature, of physical geography,--the
law of the formation of the earth," from which the Senator from
Massachusetts derived so much comfort, it was a pity that he could not
have discovered that law earlier. The "law of nature" surely had not
been changed materially since the election, when Mr. Webster opposed
General Cass, who had already enunciated this general principle.[346]

In his reply to Calhoun, Douglas emancipated himself successfully from
his gross partisanship. Planting himself firmly upon the national
theory of the Federal Union, he hewed away at what he termed Calhoun's
fundamental error--"the error of supposing that his particular section
has a right to have a 'due share of the territories' set apart and
assigned to it." Calhoun had said much about Southern rights and
Northern aggressions, citing the Ordinance of 1787 as an instance of
the unfair exclusion of the South from the public domain. Douglas
found a complete refutation of this error in the early history of
Illinois, where slavery had for a long time existed in spite of the
Ordinance. His inference from these facts was bold and suggestive, if
not altogether convincing.

"These facts furnish a practical illustration of that great truth,
which ought to be familiar to all statesmen and politicians, that a
law passed by the national legislature to operate locally upon a
people not represented, will always remain practically a dead letter
upon the statute book, if it be in opposition to the wishes and
supposed interests of those who are to be affected by it, and at the
same time charged with its execution. The Ordinance of 1787 was
practically a dead letter. It did not make the country, to which it
applied, practically free from slavery. The States formed out of the
territory northwest of the Ohio did not become free by virtue of the
ordinance, nor in consequence of it ... [but] by virtue of their own

Douglas was equally convinced that the Missouri Compromise had had no
practical effect upon slavery. So far from depriving the South of its
share of the West, that Compromise had simply "allayed an unfortunate
excitement which was alienating the affections of different portions
of the Union." "Slavery was as effectually excluded from the whole of
that country, by the laws of nature, of climate, and production,
before, as it is now, by act of Congress."[348] As for the exclusion
of the South from the Oregon Territory, the law of 1848 "did nothing
more than re-enact and affirm the law which the people themselves had
previously adopted, and rigorously executed, for the period of twelve
years." The exclusion of slavery was the deliberate act of the people
of Oregon: "it was done in obedience to that great Democratic
principle, that it is wiser and better to leave each community to
determine and regulate its own local and domestic affairs in its own

An amendment to the Constitution to establish a permanent equilibrium
between slave and free States, Douglas rightly characterized as "a
moral and physical impossibility." The cause of freedom had steadily
advanced, while slavery had receded. "We all look forward with
confidence to the time when Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky,
and Missouri, and probably North Carolina and Tennessee, will adopt a
gradual system of emancipation. In the meantime," said he, with the
exultant spirit of the exuberant West, "we have a vast territory,
stretching from the Mississippi to the Pacific, which is rapidly
filling up with a hardy, enterprising, and industrious population,
large enough to form at least seventeen new free States, one half of
which we may expect to see represented in this body during our day. Of
these I calculate that four will be formed out of Oregon, five out of
our late acquisition from Mexico, including the present State of
California, two out of the territory of Minnesota, and the residue out
of the country upon the Missouri river, _including Nebraska_. I think
I am safe in assuming, that each of these will be free territories and
free States whether Congress shall prohibit slavery or not. Now, let
me inquire, where are you to find the slave territory with which to
balance these seventeen free territories, or even any one of
them?"[350] Truer prophecy was never uttered in all the long
controversy over the extension of slavery.

With a bit of brag, which was perhaps pardonable tinder the
circumstances, Douglas reminded the Senate of his efforts to secure
the admission of California and of his prediction that the people of
that country would form a free State constitution. A few months had
sufficed to vindicate his position at the last session. And yet,
strangely enough, the North was still fearful lest slavery should be
extended to New Mexico and Utah. "There is no ground for apprehension
on this point," he stoutly contended. "If there was one inch of
territory in the whole of our acquisition from Mexico, where slavery
could exist, it was in the valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin,
within the limits of the State of California. It should be borne in
mind, that climate regulates this matter, and that climate depends
upon the elevation above the sea as much as upon parallels of
latitude." Why then leave the question open for further agitation?
Give the people of California the government to which they are
entitled. "The country is now free by law and in fact--it is free
according to those laws of nature and of God, to which the Senator
from Massachusetts alluded, and must forever remain free. It will be
free under any bill you may pass, or without any bill at all."[351]

Though he did not discuss the compromise resolutions nor commit
himself to their support, Douglas paid a noble tribute to the spirit
in which they had been offered. He spoke feelingly of "the
self-sacrificing spirit which prompted the venerable Senator from
Kentucky to exhibit the matchless moral courage of standing undaunted
between the two great hostile factions, and rebuking the violence and
excesses of each, and pointing out their respective errors, in a
spirit of kindness, moderation, and firmness, which made them
conscious that he was right." Clay's example was already, he believed,
checking the tide of popular excitement. For his part, he entertained
no fears as to the future. "The Union will not be put in peril;
California will be admitted; governments for the territories must be
established; and thus the controversy will end, and I trust forever."
A cheerful bit of Western optimism to which the country at large was
not yet ready to subscribe.

With his wonted aggressiveness Douglas had a batch of bills ready by
March 25th, covering the controverted question of California and the
Territories. The origin of these bills is a matter of no little
interest. A group of Southern Whigs in the House, led by Toombs and
Stephens of Georgia, had taken a determined stand against the
admission of California, until assurances were given that concessions
would be made to the South in the organization of the new

With both Toombs and Stephens, Douglas was on friendly terms, despite
their political differences. Perhaps it was at his suggestion that
McClernand of Illinois approached these gentlemen with an olive
branch. At all events, a conference was arranged at the Speaker's
house, at which Douglas was represented by his friends McClernand,
Richardson, and Linn Boyd of Kentucky. Boyd was chairman of the House
Committee on Territories; and Richardson a member of the committee.
McClernand announced that he had consulted with Douglas and that they
were in entire agreement on the points at issue. Douglas had thought
it better not to be present in person. The Southerners stated their
position frankly and fully. They would consent to the admission of
California only upon condition that, in organizing the territorial
governments, the power should be given to the people to legislate in
regard to slavery, and to frame constitutions with or without slavery.
Congress was to bind itself to admit them as States, without any
restrictions upon the subject of slavery. The wording of the
territorial bills, which would compass these ends, was carefully
agreed upon and put in writing. On the basis of this agreement Douglas
and McClernand drafted bills for both the Senate and the House

But the suggestion had already been made and was growing in favor,
that a select committee should be intrusted with these and other
delicate questions, in order to secure a basis of compromise in the
spirit of Clay's resolutions. Believing that such a course would
indefinitely delay, and even put in jeopardy, the measure that lay
nearest to his heart,--the admission of California,--Douglas resisted
the appointment of such a committee. If it seemed best to join the
California bill with others now pending, he preferred that the Senate,
rather than a committee, should decide the conditions. But when he was
outvoted, Douglas adopted the sensible course of refusing to obstruct
the work of the Committee of Thirteen by any instructions. He was
inclined to believe the whole project a farce: well, if it was, the
sooner it was over, the better; he was not disposed to wrangle and
turn the farce into a tragedy.[354]

Douglas was not chosen a member of the select Committee of Thirteen.
He could hardly expect to be; but he contributed not a little to its
labors, if a traditional story be true. In a chance conversation,
Clay, who was chairman of the committee, told Douglas that their
report would recommend the union of his two bills,--the California and
the Territorial bills,--instead of a bill of their own. Clay intimated
that the committee felt some delicacy about appropriating Douglas's
carefully drawn measures. With a courtesy quite equal to Clay's,
Douglas urged him to use the bills if it was deemed wise. For his
part, he did not believe that they could pass the Senate as a single
bill. In that event, he could then urge the original bills separately
upon the Senate. Then Clay, extending his hand, said, "You are the
most generous man living. I _will_ unite the bills and report them;
but justice shall nevertheless be done you as the real author of the
measures." A pretty story, and not altogether improbable. At all
events, the first part of "the Omnibus Bill," reported by the
Committee of Thirteen, consisted of Douglas's two bills joined
together by a wafer.[355]

There was one highly significant change in the territorial bills
inside the Omnibus. Douglas's measures had been silent on the slavery
question; these forbade the territorial legislatures to pass any
measure in respect to African slavery, restricting the powers of the
territorial legislatures at a vital point. Now on this question
Douglas's instructions bound him to an affirmative vote. He was in the
uncomfortable and hazardous position of one who must choose between
his convictions, and the retention of political office. It was a
situation all the more embarrassing, because he had so often asserted
the direct responsibility of a representative to his constituents. He
extricated himself from the predicament in characteristic fashion. He
reaffirmed his convictions; sought to ward off the question; but
followed instructions when he had to give his vote. He obeyed the
letter, but violated the spirit of his instructions.

In the debates on the Omnibus Bill, Douglas reiterated his theory of
non-interference with the right of the people to legislate for
themselves on the question of slavery. He was now forced to further
interesting assertions by some pointed questions from Senator Davis of
Mississippi. "The Senator says that the inhabitants of a territory
have a right to decide what their institutions shall be. When? By what
authority? How many of them?" Douglas replied: "Without determining
the precise number, I will assume that the right ought to accrue to
the people at the moment they have enough to constitute a
government.... Your bill concedes that a representative government is
necessary--a government founded upon the principles of popular
sovereignty, and the right of the people to enact their own laws; and
for this reason you give them a legislature constituted of two
branches, like the legislatures of the different States and
Territories of the Union; you confer upon them the right to legislate
upon all rightful subjects of legislation, except negroes. Why except
negroes?"[356] Forced to a further explanation, he added, "I am not,
therefore, prepared to say that under the constitution, we have not
the power to pass laws excluding negro slaves from the territories....
But I do say that, if left to myself to carry out my own opinions, I
would leave the whole subject to the people of the territories
themselves.... I believe it is one of those rights to be conceded to
the territories the moment they have governments and legislatures
established for them."[357] In short, this was a policy dictated by
expediency, and not--as yet--by any constitutional necessity. Douglas
was not yet ready to abandon the high national ground of supreme,
Federal control over the Territories.

But the restrictive clause in the territorial bills satisfied the
radical Southerners as little as it pleased Douglas. Berrien wished to
make the clause more precise by forbidding the territorial
legislatures "to establish or prohibit African slavery"; but Hale,
with his preternatural keenness for the supposed intrigues of the
slave power, believed that even with these restrictions the
legislatures might still recognize slavery as an already established
institution; and he therefore moved to add the word "allow." Douglas
voted consistently; first against Berrien's amendment, and then, when
it carried, for Hale's, hoping thereby to discredit the former.[358]
Douglas's own amendment removing all restrictions, was voted
down.[359] True to his instructions, he voted for Seward's proposition
to impose the Wilmot Proviso upon the Territories, but he was happy to
find himself in the minority.[360] And so the battle went on,
threatening to end in a draw.

A motion to abolish and prohibit peon slavery elicited an apparently
spontaneous and sincere expression of detestation from Douglas of
"this revolting system." Black slavery was not abhorrent to him; but a
species of slavery not confined to any color or race, which might,
because of a trifling debt, condemn the free white man and his
posterity to an endless servitude--this was indeed intolerable. If the
Senate was about to abolish black slavery, being unwilling to intrust
the territorial legislature with such measures, surely it ought in all
consistency to abolish also peonage. But the Senate preferred not to
be consistent.[361]

By the last of July, the Omnibus--in the words of Benton--had been
overturned, and all the inmates but one spilled out. The Utah bill was
the lucky survivor, but even it was not suffered to pass without
material alterations. Clay now joined with Douglas to secure the
omission of the clause forbidding the territorial legislature to touch
the subject of slavery. In this they finally succeeded.[362] The bill
was thus restored to its original form.[363]

Everyone admitted that the compromise scheme had been wrecked. It was
highly probable, however, that with some changes the proposals of the
committee could be adopted, if they were considered separately. Such
was Douglas's opinion. The eventuality had occurred which he had
foreseen. He was ready for it. He had promptly called up his original
California bill and had secured its consideration, when the Utah bill
passed to a third reading. Then a bill to settle the Texan boundary
controversy was introduced. The Senate passed many weary days
discussing first one and then the other. The Texas question was
disposed of on August 9th; the California bill, after weathering many
storms, came to port four days later; and two days afterward, New
Mexico was organized as a Territory under the same conditions as Utah.
That is to say, the Senate handed on these bills with its approval to
the lower house, where all were voted. It remained only to complete
the compromise programme piece-meal, by abolishing the slave trade in
the District of Columbia and by providing a more stringent fugitive
slave law. By the middle of September, these measures had become law,
and the work of Congress went to its final review before the tribunal
of public opinion.

Douglas voted for all the compromise measures but the Fugitive Slave
Law. This was an unfortunate omission, for many a Congressman had
sought to dodge the question.[364] The partisan press did not spare
him, though he stated publicly that he would have voted for the bill,
had he not been forced to absent himself. Such excuses were common and
unconvincing. Irritated by sly thrusts on every side, Douglas at last
resolved to give a detailed account of the circumstances that had
prevented him from putting himself on record in the vote. This public
vindication was made upon the floor of the Senate a year later.[365] A
"pecuniary obligation" for nearly four thousand dollars was about to
fall due in New York. Arrangements which he had made to pay the note
miscarried, so that he was compelled to go to New York at once, or
suffer the note to be protested. Upon the assurance of his fellow
senators that the discussion of the bill would continue at least a
week, he hastened to New York. While dining with some friends from
Illinois, he was astounded to hear that the bill had been ordered
engrossed for a third reading. He immediately left the city for
Washington, but arrived too late. He was about to ask permission then
to explain his absence, when his colleague dissuaded him. Everyone
knew, said Shields, that he was in favor of the bill; besides, very
probably the bill would be returned from the House with amendments.

The circumstantial nature of this defense now seems quite unnecessary.
After all, the best refutation of the charge lay in Douglas's
reputation for courageous and manly conduct. He was true to himself
when he said, "The dodging of votes--the attempt to avoid
responsibility--is no part of my system of political tactics."

If it is difficult to distribute the credit--or discredit--of having
passed the compromise measures, it verges on the impossible to fix the
responsibility on any individual. Clay fathered the scheme of
adjustment; but he did not work out the details, and it was just this
matter of details which aggravated the situation. Clay no longer
coveted glory. His dominant feeling was one of thankfulness. "It was
rather a triumph for the Union, for harmony and concord." Douglas
agreed with him: "No man and no party has acquired a triumph, except
the party friendly to the Union." But the younger man did covet honor,
and he could not refrain from reminding the Senate that he had played
"an humble part in the enactment of all these great measures."[366]
Oddly enough, Jefferson Davis condescended to tickle the vanity of
Douglas by testifying, "If any man has a right to be proud of the
success of these measures, it is the Senator from Illinois."[367]

Both Douglas and Toombs told their constituents that Congress had
agreed upon a great, fundamental principle in dealing with the
Territories. Both spoke with some degree of authority, for the two
territorial bills had passed in the identical form upon which they had
agreed in conference. But what was this principle? Toombs called it
the principle which the South had unwisely compromised away in
1820--the principle of non-interference with slavery by Congress, the
right of the people to hold slaves in the common Territories. Douglas
called the great principle, "the right of the people to form and
regulate their own internal concerns and domestic institutions in
their own way."[368] So stated the principle seems direct and simple.
But was Toombs willing to concede that the people of a Territory might
exclude slavery? He never said so; while Douglas conceded both the
positive power to exclude, and the negative power to permit, slavery.
Here was a discrepancy.[369] And it was probably because they could
not agree on this point, that a provision was added to the territorial
bills, providing that cases involving title to slaves might be
appealed to the Supreme Court. Whether the people of Utah and New
Mexico might exclude slaves, was to be left to the judiciary. In any
case Congress was not to interfere with slavery in the Territories.

One other question was raised subsequently. Was it intended that
Congress should act on this principle in organizing future
Territories? In other words, was the principle, newly recovered, to be
applied retroactively? There was no answer to the question in 1850,
for the simple reason that no one thought to ask it.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 327: See the chapter on "State Policy" in Davidson and
Stuvé, History of Illinois.]

[Footnote 328: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, pp. 573-574;
Ackerman, Early Illinois Railroads, in Fergus Historical Series, p.

[Footnote 329: Letter of Breese to Douglas, Illinois _State Register_,
February 6, 1851.]

[Footnote 330: Forney, Anecdotes, I, pp. 18-20.]

[Footnote 331: Letter of Douglas to Breese, _State Register_, January
20, 1851.]

[Footnote 332: _Ibid._, January 20, 1851.]

[Footnote 333: Sanborn, Congressional Grants of Land in Aid of
Railways, Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, pp. 27-30.]

[Footnote 334: Cutts, Constitutional and Party Questions, pp.

[Footnote 335: Douglas renewed his bill in the short session of
1848-1849, but did not secure action upon it.]

[Footnote 336: Cutts, Constitutional and Party Questions, p. 195.
There is so much brag in this account that one is disposed to distrust
the details.]

[Footnote 337: Sanborn, Congressional Grants, pp. 31-34.]

[Footnote 338: _Globe,_31 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 904. The vote was 26 to

[Footnote 339: _Ibid._, p. 1838.]

[Footnote 340: Sanborn, Congressional Grants, p. 35.]

[Footnote 341: John Wentworth, in his _Congressional Reminiscences_,
hints at some vote-getting in the East by tariff concessions; but
Douglas insisted that it was the Chicago branch, promising to connect
with Eastern roads, which won votes in New York, Pennsylvania and New
England. See Illinois _State Register_, March 13, 1851. The subject is
discussed by Sanborn, Congressional Grants, pp. 35-36.]

[Footnote 342: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 853.]

[Footnote 343: _Ibid._, p. 869.]

[Footnote 344: The economic significance of the Illinois Central
Railroad appears in a letter of Vice-President McClellan to Douglas in
1856. The management was even then planning to bring sugar from Havana
directly to the Chicago market, and to take the wheat and pork of the
Northwest to the West Indies _via_ New Orleans.]

[Footnote 345: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 365.]

[Footnote 346: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 366.]

[Footnote 347: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 369-370.]

[Footnote 348: _Globe,_ 31 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 370.]

[Footnote 349: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 350: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 371. I have
italicized one phrase because of its interesting relation to the
Kansas-Nebraska Act.]

[Footnote 351: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 373.]

[Footnote 352: Stephens, Const. View of the War between the States,
II, pp. 178 ff.]

[Footnote 353: For an account of this interesting episode, see
Stephens, War Between the States, II, pp. 202-204. Boyd, not
McClernand, was chairman of the House Committee, but the latter
introduced the bills by agreement with Richardson.]

[Footnote 354: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 662, 757.]

[Footnote 355: See Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 132-134. See also Douglas's
speech in the Senate, Dec. 23, 1851, and the testimony of Jefferson
Davis, _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1830.]

[Footnote 356: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1115.]

[Footnote 357: _Ibid._, p. 1116.]

[Footnote 358: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 1134-1135.]

[Footnote 359: _Ibid._, p. 1135.]

[Footnote 360: _Ibid._, p. 1134.]

[Footnote 361: _Ibid._, pp. 1143-1144.]

[Footnote 362: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 305-306; also
Cutts, Constitutional and Party Questions, pp. 80-81.]

[Footnote 363: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 1480-1481.
Rhodes, History of the United States, I, p. 181.]

[Footnote 364: Rhodes, History of the United States, I, pp. 182-183.]

[Footnote 365: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 66.]

[Footnote 366: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 1829-1830.]

[Footnote 367: _Ibid._, p. 1830.]

[Footnote 368: See his speech in Chicago; Sheahan, Douglas, p. 169.]

[Footnote 369: When Douglas reported the bills, he announced that
there was a difference of opinion in the committee on some points, in
regard to which each member reserved the right of stating his own
opinion and of acting in accordance therewith. See _Globe_, 31 Cong.,
1 Sess., p. 592.]



When Douglas reached Chicago, immediately after the adjournment of
Congress, he found the city in an uproar. The strong anti-slavery
sentiment of the community had been outraged by the Fugitive Slave
Law. Reflecting the popular indignation, the Common Council had
adopted resolutions condemning the act as a violation of the
Constitution and a transgression of the laws of God. Those senators
and representatives who voted for the bill, or "who basely sneaked
away from their seats and thereby evaded the question," were
stigmatized as "fit only to be ranked with the traitors, Benedict
Arnold and Judas Iscariot." This was indeed a sorry home-coming for
one who believed himself entitled to honors.

Learning that a mass-meeting was about to indorse the action of the
city fathers, Douglas determined to face his detractors and meet their
charges. Entering the hall while the meeting was in progress, he
mounted the platform, and announced that on the following evening he
would publicly defend all the measures of adjustment. He was greeted
with hisses and jeers for his pains; but in the end he had the
satisfaction of securing an adjournment until his defense had been

It was infinitely to his credit that when he confronted a hostile
audience on the next evening, he stooped to no cheap devices to divert
resentment, but sought to approve his course to the sober
intelligence of his hearers.[370] It is doubtful if the Fugitive Slave
Law ever found a more skillful defender. The spirit in which he met
his critics was admirably calculated to disarm prejudice. Come and let
us reason together, was his plea. Without any attempt to ignore the
most obnoxious parts of the act, he passed directly to the discussion
of the clauses which apparently denied the writ of _habeas corpus_ and
trial by jury to the fugitive from service. He reminded his hearers
that this act was supplementary to the Act of 1793. No one had found
fault with the earlier act because it had denied these rights. Both
acts, in fact, were silent on these points; yet in neither case was
silence to be construed as a denial of constitutional obligations. On
the contrary, they must be assumed to continue in full force under the
act. Misapprehension arose in these matters, because the recovery of
the fugitive slave was not viewed as a process of extradition. The act
provided for the return of the alleged slave to the State from which
he had fled. Trial of the facts by jury would then follow under the
laws of the State, just as the fugitive from justice would be tried in
the State where the alleged crime had been committed. The testimony
before the original court making the requisition, would necessarily be
_ex parte_, as in the case of the escaped criminal; but this did not
prevent a fair trial on return of the fugitive. Regarding the question
of establishing the identity of the apprehended person with the
fugitive described in the record, Douglas asserted that the terms of
the act required proof satisfactory to the judge or commissioner, and
not merely the presentment of the record. "Other and further evidence"
might be insisted upon.

At various times Douglas was interrupted by questions which were
obviously contrived to embarrass him. To all such he replied
courteously and with engaging frankness. "Why was it," asked one of
these troublesome questioners, "that the law provided for a fee of ten
dollars if the commissioner decided in favor of the claimant, and for
a fee of only five dollars if he decided otherwise? Was this not in
the nature of an inducement, a bribe?" "I presume," said Douglas,
"that the reason was that he would have more labor to perform. If,
after hearing the testimony, the commissioner decided in favor of the
claimant, the law made it his duty to prepare and authenticate the
necessary papers to authorize him to carry the fugitive home; but if
he decided against him, he had no such labor to perform."

After all, as Douglas said good-naturedly, all these objections were
predicated on a reluctance to return a slave to his master under any
circumstances. Did his hearers realize, he insisted, that refusal to
do so was a violation of the Constitution? And were they willing to
shatter the Union because of this feeling? At this point he was again
interrupted by an individual, who wished to know if the provisions of
the Constitution were not in violation of the law of God. "The divine
law," responded Douglas, "does not prescribe the form of government
under which we shall live, and the character of our political and
civil institutions. Revelation has not furnished us with a
constitution--a code of international law--and a system of civil and
municipal jurisprudence." If this Constitution were to be repudiated,
he begged to know, "who is to be the prophet to reveal the will of
God, and establish a theocracy for us?"

At the conclusion of his speech, Douglas offered a series of
resolutions expressing the obligation of all good citizens to maintain
the Constitution and all laws duly enacted by Congress in pursuance of
the Constitution. With a remarkable revulsion of feeling, the audience
indorsed these sentiments without a dissenting voice, and subsequently
repudiated in express terms the resolutions of the Common
Council.[371] The triumph of Douglas was complete. It was one of those
rare instances where the current of popular resentment is not only
deflected, but actually reversed, by the determination and eloquence
of one man.

There were two groups of irreconcilables to whom such appeals were
unavailing--radical Abolitionists at the North and Southern Rights
advocates. Not even the eloquence of Webster could make willing
slave-catchers of the anti-slavery folk of Massachusetts. The rescue
of the negro Shadrach, an alleged fugitive slave, provoked intense
excitement, not only in New England but in Washington. The incident
was deemed sufficiently ominous to warrant a proclamation by the
President, counseling all good citizens to uphold the law. Southern
statesmen of the radical type saw abundant evidence in this episode of
a deliberate purpose at the North not to enforce the essential
features of the compromise. Both Whig and Democratic leaders, with few
exceptions, roundly denounced all attempts to nullify the Fugitive
Slave Law.[372] None was more vehement than Douglas. He could not
regard this Boston rescue as a trivial incident. He believed that
there was an organization in many States to evade the law. It was in
the nature of a conspiracy against the government. The ring-leaders
were Abolitionists, who were exciting the negroes to excesses. He was
utterly at a loss to understand how senators, who had sworn to obey
and defend the Constitution, could countenance these palpable
violations of law.[373]

In spite of similar untoward incidents, the vast majority of people in
the country North and South were acquiescing little by little in the
settlement reached by the compromise measures. There was an evident
disposition on the part of both Whig and Democratic leaders to drop
the slavery issue. When Senator Sumner proposed a repeal of the
Fugitive Slave Act, Douglas deprecated any attempt to "fan the flames
of discord that have so recently divided this great people,"[374]
intimating that Sumner's speech was intended to "operate upon the
presidential election." It ill became the Senator from Illinois to
indulge in such taunts, for no one, it may safely be said, was
calculating his own political chances more intently. "Things look
well," he had written to a friend, referring to his chances of
securing the nomination, "and the prospect is brightening every day.
All that is necessary now to insure success is that the northwest
should unite and speak out."[375]

When the Democrats of Illinois proposed Douglas's name for the
presidency in 1848, no one was disposed to take the suggestion
seriously, outside the immediate circle of his friends. To graybeards
there was something almost humorous in the suggestion that five years
of service in Congress gave a young man of thirty-five a claim to
consideration! Within three short years, however, the situation had
changed materially. Older aspirants for the chief magistracy were
forced, with no little alarm, to acknowledge the rise of a really
formidable rival. By midsummer of 1851, competent observers thought
that Douglas had the best chance of winning the Democratic nomination.
In the judgment of certain Whig editors, he was the strongest man. It
was significant of his growing favor, that certain Democrats of the
city and county of New York tendered him a banquet, in honor of his
distinguished services to the party and his devotion to the Union
during the past two years.

Politicians of both parties shared the conviction that unless the
Whigs could get together,--which was unlikely,--a nomination at the
hands of a national Democratic convention was equivalent to an
election. Consequently there were many candidates in the field. The
preliminary canvass promised to be eager. It was indeed well under way
long before Congress assembled in December, and it continued actively
during the session. "The business of the session," wrote one observer
in a cynical frame of mind, "will consist mainly in the manoeuvres,
intrigues, and competitions for the next Presidency." Events justified
the prediction. "A politician does not sneeze without reference to the
Presidency," observed the same writer, some weeks after the beginning
of the session. "Congress does little else but intrigue for the
respective candidates."[376]

Prospective candidates who sat in Congress had at least this
advantage, over their outside competitors,--they could keep themselves
in the public eye by making themselves conspicuous in debate. But the
wisdom of such devices was questionable. Those who could not point
with confident pride to their record, wisely chose to remain
non-committal on matters of personal history. Douglas was one of those
who courted publicity. Perhaps as a young man pitted against older
rivals, he felt that he had everything to gain thereby and not much to
lose. The irrepressible Foote of Mississippi gave all his colleagues a
chance to mar their reputations, by injecting into the deliberations
of the Senate a discussion of the finality of the compromise
measures.[377] It speedily appeared that fidelity to the settlement of
1850, from the Southern point of view, consisted in strict adherence
to the Fugitive Slave Act.[378] This was the touchstone by which
Southern statesmen proposed to test their Northern colleagues.
Prudence whispered silence into many an ear; but Douglas for one
refused to heed her admonitions. Within three weeks after the session
began, he was on his feet defending the consistency of his course,
with an apparent ingenuousness which carried conviction to the larger
audience who read, but did not hear, his declaration of political

Two features of this speech commended it to Democrats: its
recognition of the finality of the compromise, and its insistence upon
the necessity of banishing the slavery question from politics. "The
Democratic party," he asseverated, "is as good a Union party as I
want, and I wish to preserve its principles and its organization, and
to triumph upon its old issues. I desire no new tests--no
interpolations into the old creed."[379] For his part, he was resolved
never to speak again upon the slavery question in the halls of

But this was after all a negative programme. Could a campaign be
successfully fought without other weapons than the well-worn
blunderbusses in the Democratic arsenal? This was a do-nothing policy,
difficult to reconcile with the enthusiastic liberalism which Young
America was supposed to cherish. Yet Douglas gauged the situation
accurately. The bulk of the party wished a return to power more than
anything else. To this end, they were willing to toot for old issues
and preserve the old party alignment. For four years, the Democratic
office-hunters had not tasted of the loaves and fishes within the gift
of the executive. They expected liberality in conduct, if not
liberalism in creed, from their next President. Douglas shared this
political hunger. He had always been a believer in rotation in office,
and an exponent of that unhappy, American practice of using public
office as the spoil of party victory. In this very session, he put
himself on record against permanence in office for the clerks of the
Senate, holding that such positions should fall vacant at stated

But had Douglas no policy peculiarly his own, to qualify him for the
leadership of his party? Distrustful Whigs accused him of being
willing to offer Cuba for the support of the South.[381] Indeed, he
made no secret of his desire to acquire the Pearl of the Antilles.
Still, this was not the sort of issue which it was well to drag into a
presidential campaign. Like all the other aspirants for the
presidency, Douglas made what capital he could out of the visit of
Kossuth and the question of intervention in behalf of Hungary. When
the matter fell under discussion in the Senate, Douglas formulated
what he considered should be the policy of the government:

"I hold that the principle laid down by Governor Kossuth as the basis
of his action--that each State has a right to dispose of her own
destiny, and regulate her internal affairs in her own way, without the
intervention of any foreign power--is an axiom in the laws of nations
which every State ought to recognize and respect.... It is equally
clear to my mind, that any violation of this principle by one nation,
intervening for the purpose of destroying the liberties of another, is
such an infraction of the international code as would authorize any
State to interpose, which should conceive that it had sufficient
interest in the question to become the vindicator of the laws of

Cass had said much the same thing, but with less virility. Douglas
scored on his rival in this speech: first, when he declared with a bit
of Chauvinism, "I do not deem it material whether the reception of
Governor Kossuth give offence to the crowned heads of Europe,
provided it does not violate the law of nations, and give just _cause_
of offence"; and again, scorning the suggestion of an alliance with
England, "The peculiar position of our country requires that we should
have an _American policy_ in our foreign relations, based upon the
principles of our own government, and adapted to the spirit of the
age."[383] There was a stalwart conviction in these utterances which
gave promise of confident, masterful leadership. These are qualities
which the people of this great democracy have always prized, but
rarely discovered, in their Presidents.

It was at this moment in the canvass that the promoters of Douglas's
candidacy made a false move. Taking advantage of the popular
demonstration over Kossuth and the momentary diversion of public
attention from the slavery question to foreign politics, they sought to
thrust Douglas upon the Democratic party as the exponent of a
progressive foreign policy. They presumed to speak in behalf of "Young
America," as against "Old Fogyism." Seizing upon the _Democratic
Review_ as their organ, these progressives launched their boom by a
sensational article in the January number, entitled "Eighteen-Fifty-Two
and the Presidency." Beginning with an arraignment of "Webster's
un-American foreign policy, the writer,--or writers,--called upon
honest men to put an end to this "Quaker policy." "The time has come
for strong, sturdy, clear-headed and honest men to act; and the
Republic must have them, should it be compelled, as the colonies were
in 1776, to drag the hero of the time out of a hole in a wild forest,
[_sic_] whether in Virginia or the illimitable West." To inaugurate
such an era, the presidential chair must be filled by a man, not of the
last generation, but of this. He must not be "trammeled with ideas
belonging to an anterior era, or a man of merely local fame and local
affections, but a statesman who can bring young blood, young ideas, and
young hearts to the councils of the Republic. He must not be a mere
general, a mere lawyer, a mere wire-puller. "Your beaten horse, whether
he ran for a previous presidential cup as first or second," will not
do. He must be 'a tried civilian, not a second and third rate general.'
"Withal, a practical statesman, not to be discomfited in argument, or
led wild by theory, but one who has already, in the councils and
tribunals of the nation, reared his front to the dismay of the shallow
conservative, to the exposure of the humanitarian incendiary, and the
discomfiture of the antiquated rhetorician."

If anyone was so dense as not to recognize the portrait here painted,
he had only to turn to an article entitled "Intervention," to find the
name of the hero who was to usher in the new era. The author of this
paper finds his sentiments so nearly identical with those of Stephen
A. Douglas, that he resorts to copious extracts from his speech
delivered in the Senate on the welcome of Kossuth, "entertaining no
doubt that the American people, the _democracy_ of the country will
endorse these doctrines by an overwhelming majority." Still another
article in this formidable broadside from the editors of the
_Democratic Review_, deprecated Foote's efforts to thrust the slavery
issue again upon Congress, and expressed the pious wish that Southern
delegates might join with Northern in the Baltimore convention, to
nominate a candidate who would in future "evince the most profound
ignorance as to the topographical bearing of that line of discord
known as 'Mason and Dixon's.'"

If all this was really the work of Douglas's friends,--and it is more
than likely,--he had reason to pray to be delivered from them. At best
the whole manoeuvre was clumsily planned and wretchedly executed; it
probably did him irreparable harm. His strength was not sufficient to
confront all his rivals; yet the almost inevitable consequence of the
odious comparisons in the _Review_ was combinations against him. The
leading article gave mortal offense in quarters where he stood most in
need of support.[384] Douglas was quick to detect the blunder and
appreciate its dangers to his prospects. His friends now began
sedulously to spread the report that the article was a ruse of the
enemy, for the especial purpose of spoiling his chances at Baltimore.
It was alleged that proof sheets had been found in the possession of a
gentleman in Washington, who was known to be hostile to Douglas.[385]
Few believed this story: the explanation was too far-fetched.
Nevertheless, one of Douglas's intimates subsequently declared, on the
floor of the House, that the Judge was not responsible for anything
that appeared in the _Review_, that he had no interest in or control
over the magazine, and that he knew nothing about the January number
until he saw it in print.[386]

In spite of this untoward incident, Douglas made a formidable
showing.[387] He was himself well pleased at the outlook. He wrote to
a friend, "Prospects look well and are improving every day. If two or
three western States will speak out in my favor the battle is over.
Can anything be done in Iowa and Missouri? That is very important. If
some one could go to Iowa, I think the convention in that State would
instruct for me. In regard to our own State, I will say a word. Other
States are appointing a large number of delegates to the convention,
... ought not our State to do the same thing so as to ensure the
attendance of most of our leading politicians at Baltimore?... This
large number would exert a great moral influence on the other

Among the States which had led off in his favor was California; and it
was a representative of California who first sounded the charge for
Douglas's cohorts in the House. In any other place and at any other
time, Marshall's exordium would have overshot the mark. Indeed, in
indorsing the attack of the _Review_ on the old fogies in the party,
he tore open wounds which it were best to let heal; but gauged by the
prevailing standard of taste in politics, the speech was acceptable.
It so far commended itself to the editors of the much-abused _Review_
that it appeared in the April number, under the caption "The Progress
of Democracy vs. Old Fogy Retrograder."

To clear-headed outsiders, there was something factitious in this
parade of enthusiasm for Douglas. "What most surprises one," wrote
the correspondent of the New York _Tribune_, "is that these
Congressmen, with beards and without; that verdant, flippant, smart
detachment of Young America that has got into the House, propose to
make a candidate for the Baltimore convention without consulting their
masters, the people. With a few lively fellows in Congress and the aid
of the _Democratic Review_, they fancy themselves equal to the
achievement of a small job like this."[389] As the first of June
approached, the older, experienced politicians grew confident that
none of the prominent candidates could command a two-thirds vote in
the convention. Some had foreseen this months beforehand and had been
casting about for a compromise candidate. Their choice fell eventually
upon General Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire. Friends were active in
his behalf as early as April, and by June they had hatched their plot.
It was not their plan to present his name to the convention at the
outset, but to wait until the three prominent candidates (Cass,
Douglas, and Buchanan) were disposed of. He was then to be put forward
as an available, compromise candidate.[390]

Was Douglas cognizant of the situation? While his supporters did not
abate their noisy demonstrations, there is some ground to believe that
he did not share their optimistic spirit. At all events, in spite of
his earlier injunctions, only eleven delegates from Illinois attended
the convention, while Pennsylvania sent fifty-five, Tennessee
twenty-seven, and Indiana thirty-nine. Had Douglas sent home the
intimation that the game was up? The first ballot told the story of
his defeat. Common rumor had predicted that a large part of the
Northwest would support him. Only fifteen of his twenty votes came
from that quarter, and eleven of these were cast by Illinois. It was
said that the Indiana delegates would divert their strength to him,
when they had cast one ballot for General Lane; but Indiana cast no
votes for Douglas. Although his total vote rose to ninety-two and on
the thirty-first ballot he received the highest vote of any of the
candidates, there was never a moment when there was the slightest
prospect of his winning the prize.[391]

On the thirty-fifth ballot occurred a diversion. Virginia cast fifteen
votes for Franklin Pierce. The schemers had launched their project.
But it was not until the forty-ninth ballot that they started the
avalanche. Pierce then received all but six votes. Two Ohio delegates
clung to Douglas to the bitter end. With the frank manliness which
made men forget his less admirable qualities, Douglas dictated this
dispatch to the convention: "I congratulate the Democratic party upon
the nomination, and Illinois will give Franklin Pierce a larger
majority than any other State in the Union,"--a promise which he was
not able to redeem.

If Douglas had been disposed to work out his political prospects by
mathematical computation, he would have arrived at some interesting
conclusions from the balloting in the convention. Indeed, very
probably he drew some deductions in his own intuitive way, without any
adventitious aid. Of the three rivals, Cass received the most widely
distributed vote, although Douglas received votes from as many States.
While they drew votes from twenty-one States, Buchanan received votes
from only fifteen. Cass and Douglas obtained their highest percentages
of votes from the West; Buchanan found his strongest support in the
South. Douglas and Cass received least support in the Middle States;
Buchanan had no votes from the West. But while Cass had, on his
highest total, thirty per centum of the whole vote of the Middle
States, Douglas was relatively weak in the Middle States rather than
in the South. On the basis of these figures, it is impossible to
justify the statement that he could expect nothing in future from New
England and Pennsylvania, but would look to the South for support for
the presidency.[392] On the contrary, one would say that his strong
New England following would act as an equipoise, preventing too great
a dip toward the Southern end of the scales. Besides, Douglas's hold
on his own constituents and the West was contingent upon the favor of
the strong New England element in the Northwest. If this convention
taught Douglas anything, it must have convinced him that narrow,
sectional policies and undue favor to the South would never land him
in the White House. To win the prize which he frankly coveted, he must
grow in the national confidence, and not merely in the favor of a
single section, however powerful.[393]

Pledges aside, Douglas was bound to give vigorous aid to the party
candidates. His term as senator was about to expire. His own fortunes
were inseparably connected with those of his party in Illinois. The
Washington _Union_ printed a list of his campaign engagements,
remarking with evident satisfaction that Judge Douglas was "in the
field with his armor on." His itinerary reached from Virginia to
Arkansas, and from New York to the interior counties of his own State.
Stray items from a speech in Richmond suggest the tenuous quality of
these campaign utterances. It was quite clear to his mind that General
Scott's acceptance of the Whig nomination could not have been written
by that manly soldier, but by _Politician_ Scott under the control of
_General_ Seward. Was it wise to convert a good general into a bad
president? Could it be true that Scott had promised the entire
patronage of his administration to the Whigs? Why, "there had never
been a Democratic administration in this Union that did not retain at
least one-third of their political opponents in office!"[394] And yet,
when Pierce had been elected, Douglas could say publicly, without so
much as a blush, that Democrats must now have the offices. "For every
Whig removed there should be a competent Democrat put in his place ...
The best men should be selected, and everybody knows that the best men
voted for Pierce and King."[395]

The outcome of the elections in Illinois was gratifying save in one
particular. In consequence of the redistricting of the State, the
Whigs had increased the number of their representatives in Congress.
But the re-election of Douglas was assured.[396] His hold upon his
constituency was unshaken. With right good will he participated in the
Democratic celebration at Washington. As an influential personage in
Democratic councils he was called upon to sketch in broad lines what
he deemed to be sound Democratic policy; but only a casual reference
to Cuba redeemed his speech from the commonplace. "Whenever the people
of Cuba show themselves worthy of freedom by asserting and maintaining
independence, and apply for annexation, they ought to be annexed;
whenever Spain is ready to sell Cuba, with the consent of its
inhabitants, we ought to accept it on fair terms; and if Spain should
transfer Cuba to England or any other European power, we should take
and hold Cuba anyhow."[397]

Ambition and a buoyant optimism seemed likely to make Douglas more
than ever a power in Democratic politics, when a personal bereavement
changed the current of his life. His young wife whom he adored, the
mother of his two boys, died shortly after the new year. For the
moment he was overwhelmed; and when he again took his place in the
Senate, his colleagues remarked in him a bitterness and acerbity of
temper which was not wonted. One hostage that he had given to Fortune
had been taken away, and a certain recklessness took possession of
him. He grew careless in his personal habits, slovenly in his dress,
disregardful of his associates, and if possible more vehemently
partisan in his public utterances.

It was particularly regrettable that, while Douglas was passing
through this domestic tragedy, he should have been drawn into a
controversy relating to British claims in Central America. It was
rumored that Great Britain, in apparent violation of the terms of the
Clayton-Bulwer treaty, had taken possession of certain islands in the
Bay of Honduras and erected them into the colony of "the Bay Islands."
On the heels of this rumor came news that aroused widespread
indignation. A British man-of-war had fired upon an American steamer,
which had refused to pay port dues on entering the harbor of Greytown.
Over this city, strategically located at the mouth of the San Juan
River, Great Britain exercised an ill-disguised control as part of the
Mosquito protectorate.

In the midst of the excited debate which immediately followed in
Congress, Cass astonished everybody by producing the memorandum which
Bulwer had given Clayton just before the signing of the treaty.[398]
In this remarkable note, the British ambassador stated that his
government did not wish to be understood as renouncing its existing
claims to Her Majesty's settlement at Honduras and "its dependencies."
And Clayton seemed to have admitted the force of this reservation. For
his part, Cass made haste to say, he wished the Senate distinctly to
understand that when he had voted for the treaty, he believed Great
Britain was thereby prevented from establishing any such dependency.
His object--and he had supposed it to be the object of the treaty--was
to sweep away all British claims to Central America.

Behind this imbroglio lay an intricate diplomatic history which can
be here only briefly recapitulated. The interest of the United States
in the Central American States dated from the discovery of gold in
California. The value of the control of the means of transportation
across the isthmus at Nicaragua became increasingly clear, as the gold
seekers sought that route to the Pacific coast. In the latter days of
his administration, President Polk had sent one Elijah Hise to
cultivate friendly relations with the Central American States and to
offset the paramount influence of Great Britain in that region. Great
Britain was already in possession of the colony of Belize and was
exercising an ill-defined protectorate over the Mosquito Indians on
the eastern coast of Nicaragua. In his ardor to serve American
interests, Hise exceeded his instructions and secured a treaty with
Nicaragua, which gave to the United States exclusive privileges over
the route of the proposed canal, on condition that the sovereignty of
Nicaragua were guaranteed. The incoming Whig administration would have
nothing to do with the Hise _entente_, preferring to dispatch its own
agent to Central America. Though Squier succeeded in negotiating a
more acceptable treaty, the new Secretary of State, Clayton, was
disposed to come to an understanding with Great Britain. The outcome
of these prolonged negotiations was the famous Clayton-Bulwer treaty,
by which both countries agreed to further the construction of a ship
canal across the isthmus through Nicaragua, and to guarantee its
neutrality. Other countries were invited to join in securing the
neutrality of this and other regions where canals might be
constructed. Both Great Britain and the United States explicitly
renounced any "dominion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito
coast or any part of Central America."[399]

The opposition would have been something less than human, if they had
not seized upon the occasion to discredit the outgoing administration.
Cass had already introduced a resolution reaffirming the terms of the
famous Monroe message respecting European colonization in America, and
thus furnishing the pretext for partisan attacks upon Secretary of
State Clayton. But Cass unwittingly exposed his own head to a sidelong
blow from his Democratic rival from Illinois, who affected the rôle of
Young America once more.

It is impossible to convey in cold print the biting sarcasm, the
vindictive bitterness, and the reckless disregard of justice, with
which Douglas spoke on February 14th. He sneered at this new
profession of the Monroe Doctrine. Why keep repeating this talk about
a policy which the United States has almost invariably repudiated in
fact? Witness the Oregon treaty! "With an avowed policy, of thirty
years' standing that no future European colonization is to be
permitted in America--affirmed when there was no opportunity for
enforcing it, and abandoned whenever a case was presented for carrying
it into practical effect--is it now proposed to beat another retreat
under cover of terrible threats of awful consequences when the offense
shall be repeated? '_Henceforth_' no 'future' European colony is to be
planted in America '_with our consent!_' It is gratifying to learn
that the United States are never going to 'consent' to the
repudiation of the Monroe doctrine again. No more Clayton and Bulwer
treaties; no more British 'alliances' in Central America, New Granada,
or Mexico; no more resolutions of oblivion to protect 'existing
rights!' Let England tremble, and Europe take warning, if the offense
is repeated. 'Should the attempt be made,' says the resolution, 'it
will leave the United States _free to adopt_ such measures as an
independent nation may justly adopt in defense of its rights and
honor.' Are not the United States now _free_ to adopt such measures as
an independent nation may _justly adopt_ in defense of its _rights and
honor_? Have we not given the notice? Is not thirty years sufficient

He taunted Clayton with having suppressed the Hise treaty, which
secured exclusive privileges for the United States over the canal
route, in order to form a partnership with England and other
monarchical powers of Europe. "Exclusive privileges" were sacrificed
to lay the foundation of an alliance by which European intervention in
American affairs was recognized as a right!

It was generally known that Douglas had opposed the Clayton-Bulwer
treaty;[401] but the particular ground of his opposition had been only
surmised. Deeming the injunction of secrecy removed, he now
emphatically registered his protest against the whole policy of
pledging the faith of the Republic, not to do what in the future our
interests, duty, and even safety, might compel us to do. The time
might come when the United States would wish to possess some portion
of Central America. Moreover, the agreement not to fortify any part of
that region was not reciprocal, so long as Great Britain held Jamaica
and commanded the entrance to the canal. He had always regarded the
terms of the British protectorate over the Mosquito coast as
equivocal; but the insuperable objection to the treaty was the
European partnership to which the United States was pledged. The two
parties not only contracted to extend their protection to any other
practicable communications across the isthmus, whether by canal or
railway, but invited all other powers to become parties to these
provisions. What was the purport of this agreement, if it did not
recognize the right of European powers to intervene in American
affairs; what then became of the vaunted Monroe Doctrine?

To the undiplomatic mind of Douglas, our proper course was as clear as
day. Insist upon the withdrawal of Great Britain from the Bay Islands!
"If we act with becoming discretion and firmness, I have no
apprehension that the enforcement of our rights will lead to
hostilities." And then let the United States free itself from
entangling alliances by annulling the Clayton-Bulwer treaty.[402]
Surely this was simplicity itself.

The return of Clayton to the Senate, in the special session of March,
brought the accused before his accusers. An acrimonious debate
followed, in the course of which Douglas was forced to state his own
position more explicitly. He took his stand upon the Hise treaty. Had
the exclusive control of the canal been given into our hands, and the
canal thrown open to the commerce of all nations upon our own terms,
we would have had a right which would have been ample security for
every nation under heaven to keep peace with the United States. "We
could have fortified that canal at each end, and in time of war could
have closed it against our enemies." But, suggested Clayton, European
powers would never have consented to such exclusive control. "Well,
Sir," said Douglas, "I do not know that they would have consented: but
of one thing I am certain I would never have asked their
consent."[403] And such was the temper of Young America that this
sledge hammer diplomacy was heartily admired.

It was in behalf of Young America again, that Douglas gave free rein
to his vision of national destiny. Disclaiming any immediate wish for
tropical expansion in the direction of either Mexico or Central
America, he yet contended that no man could foresee the limits of the
Republic. "You may make as many treaties as you please to fetter the
limits of this giant Republic, and she will burst them all from her,
and her course will be onward to a limit which I will not venture to
prescribe." Why, then, pledge our faith never to annex any more of
Mexico or any portion of Central America?[404]

For this characteristic Chauvinism Douglas paid the inevitable
penalty. Clayton promptly ridiculed this attitude. "He is fond of
boasting ... that we are a _giant_ Republic; and the Senator himself
is said to be a 'little giant;' yes, sir, quite a _giant_, and
everything that he talks about in these latter days is gigantic. He
has become so magnificent of late, that he cannot consent to enter
into a partnership on equal terms with any nation on earth--not he! He
must have the exclusive right in himself and our noble selves!"[405]

It was inevitable, too, that Douglas should provoke resentment on his
own side of the chamber. Cass was piqued by his slurs upon Old Fogyism
and by his trenchant criticism of the policy of reasserting the Monroe
Doctrine. Badger spoke for the other side of the house, when he
declared that Douglas spoke "with a disregard to justice and fairness
which I have seldom seen him exhibit." It is lamentably true that
Douglas exhibited his least admirable qualities on such occasions.
Hatred for Great Britain was bred in his bones. Possibly it was part
of his inheritance from that grandfather who had fought the Britishers
in the wars of the Revolution. Possibly, too, he had heard as a boy,
in his native Vermont village, tales of British perfidy in the recent
war of 1812. At all events, he was utterly incapable of anything but
bitter animosity toward Great Britain. This unreasoning prejudice
blinded his judgment in matters of diplomacy, and vitiated his
utterances on questions of foreign policy.

Replying to Clayton, he said contemptuously, "I do not sympathize with
that feeling which the Senator expressed yesterday, that it was a pity
to have a difference with a nation so friendly to us as England. Sir,
I do not see the evidence of her friendship. It is not in the nature
of things that she can be our friend. It is impossible that she can
love us. I do not blame her for not loving us. Sir, we have wounded
her vanity and humbled her pride. She can never forgive us."[406]

And when Senator Butler rebuked him for this animosity, reminding him
that England was after all our mother country, to whom we were under
deeper obligations than to any other, Douglas retorted, "She is and
ever has been a cruel and unnatural mother." Yes, he remembered the
illustrious names of Hampden, Sidney, and others; but he remembered
also that "the same England which gave them birth, and should have
felt a mother's pride and love in their virtues and services,
persecuted her noble sons to the dungeon and the scaffold." "He speaks
in terms of delight and gratitude of the copious and refreshing
streams which English literature and science are pouring into our
country and diffusing throughout the land. Is he not aware that nearly
every English book circulated and read in this country contains
lurking and insidious slanders and libels upon the character of our
people and the institutions and policy of our Government?"[407]

For Europe in general, Douglas had hardly more reverence. With a
positiveness which in such matters is sure proof of provincialism, he
said, "Europe is antiquated, decrepit, tottering on the verge of
dissolution. When you visit her, the objects which enlist your highest
admiration are the relics of past greatness; the broken columns
erected to departed power. It is one vast graveyard, where you find
here a tomb indicating the burial of the arts; there a monument
marking the spot where liberty expired; another to the memory of a
great man, whose place has never been filled. The choicest products of
her classic soil consist in relics, which remain as sad memorials of
departed glory and fallen greatness! They bring up the memories of
the dead, but inspire no hope for the living! Here everything is
fresh, blooming, expanding and advancing."[408]

And yet, soon after Congress adjourned, he set out to visit this vast
graveyard. It was even announced that he proposed to spend five or six
months in studying the different governments of Europe. Doubtless he
regarded this study as of negative value chiefly. From the observation
of relics of departed grandeur, a live American would derive many a
valuable lesson. His immediate destination was the country against
which he had but just thundered. Small wonder if a cordial welcome did
not await him. His admiring biographer records with pride that he was
not presented to Queen Victoria, though the opportunity was
afforded.[409] It appears that this stalwart Democrat would not so far
demean himself as to adopt the conventional court dress for the
occasion. He would not stoop even to adopt the compromise costume of
Ambassador Buchanan, and add to the plain dress of an American
citizen, a short sword which would distinguish him from the court

At St. Petersburg, his objections to court dress were more
sympathetically received. Count Nesselrode, who found this
uncompromising American possessed of redeeming qualities, put himself
to no little trouble to arrange an interview with the Czar. Douglas
was finally put under the escort of Baron Stoeckle, who was a member
of the Russian embassy at Washington, and conducted to the field where
the Czar was reviewing the army. Mounted upon a charger of huge
dimensions, the diminutive Douglas was brought into the presence of
the Czar of all the Russias.[410] It is said that Douglas was the only
American who witnessed these manoeuvres; but Douglas afterward
confessed, with a laugh at his own expense, that the most conspicuous
feature of the occasion for him was the ominous evolutions of his
horse's ears, for he was too short of limb and too inexperienced a
horseman to derive any satisfaction from the military pageant.[411]

We are assured by his devoted biographer, Sheahan, that Douglas
personally examined _all_ the public institutions of the capital
during his two weeks' stay in St. Petersburg; and that he sought a
thorough knowledge of the manners, laws, and government of that city
and the Empire.[412] No doubt, with his nimble perception he saw much
in this brief sojourn, for Russia had always interested him greatly,
and he had read its history with more than wonted care.[413] He was
not content to follow merely the beaten track in central and western
Europe; but he visited also the Southeast where rumors of war were
abroad. From St. Petersburg, he passed by carriage through the
interior to the Crimea and to Sebastopol, soon to be the storm centre
of war. In the marts of Syria and Asia Minor, he witnessed the contact
of Orient and Occident. In the Balkan peninsula he caught fugitive
glimpses of the rule of the unspeakable Turk.[414]

No man with the quick apperceptive powers of Douglas could remain
wholly untouched by the sights and sounds that crowd upon even the
careless traveler in the East; yet such experiences are not formative
in the character of a man of forty. Douglas was still Douglas, still
American, still Western to the core, when he set foot on native soil
in late October. He was not a larger man either morally or
intellectually; but he had acquired a fund of information which made
him a readier, and possibly a wiser, man. And then, too, he was
refreshed in body and mind. More than ever he was bold, alert,
persistent, and resourceful. In his compact, massive frame, were
stored indomitable pluck and energy; and in his heart the spirit of
ambition stirred mightily.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 370: The speech is given in part by Sheahan, Douglas, pp.
171 ff; and at greater length by Flint, Douglas, App., pp. 3 ff.]

[Footnote 371: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 186; Flint, Douglas, App., p. 30.]

[Footnote 372: _Globe,_31 Cong., 2 Sess., Debate of February 21 and
22, 1851.]

[Footnote 373: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 312.]

[Footnote 374: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 1120.]

[Footnote 375: MS. Letter dated December 30, 1851.]

[Footnote 376: Mann, Life of Horace Mann, pp. 351, 358, 362.]

[Footnote 377: Senator Foote introduced the subject December 2, 1851,
by a resolution pronouncing the compromise measures a "definite
adjustment and settlement."]

[Footnote 378: Rhodes, History of the United States, 1, p. 230.]

[Footnote 379: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 68.]

[Footnote 380: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 63. About this time he
wrote to a friend, "I shall act on the rule of giving the offices to
those who fight the battles."]

[Footnote 381: Mann, Life of Horace Mann, p. 354.]

[Footnote 382: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 70.]

[Footnote 383: _Globe,_32 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 70-71.]

[Footnote 384: See speech by Breckinridge of Kentucky in _Globe_, 32
Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 299 ff.]

[Footnote 385: Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, p. 115.]

[Footnote 386: Statement by Richardson of Illinois in reply to J.C.
Breckinridge of Kentucky, March 3, 1852. _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess.,
App., p. 302.]

[Footnote 387: "What with his Irish Organs, his Democratic reviews and
an armful of other strings, each industriously pulled, he makes a
formidable show." Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, p. 115.]

[Footnote 388: MS. Letter, February 25, 1852.]

[Footnote 389: Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, p. 118.]

[Footnote 390: Burke-Pierce Correspondence, printed in _American
Historical Review_, X, pp. 110 ff. See also Stanwood, History of the
Presidency, p. 248, and Rhodes, History of the United States, I, pp.

[Footnote 391: Proceedings of Democratic National Convention of 1852.]

[Footnote 392: See Rhodes, History of the United States, I, pp.

[Footnote 393: To attribute to Douglas, from this time on, as many
writers have done, a purpose to pander to the South, is not only to
discredit his political foresight, but to misunderstand his position
in the Northwest and to ignore his reiterated assertions.]

[Footnote 394: Richmond _Enquirer_, quoted in Illinois _Register_,
August 3, 1852.]

[Footnote 395: Illinois _State Register_, December 23, 1852.]

[Footnote 396: Washington _Union_, November 30, 1852. On a joint
ballot of the legislature Douglas received 75 out of 95 votes. See
Illinois _State Register_, January 5, 1853.]

[Footnote 397: Illinois _State Register_, December 23, 1852.]

[Footnote 398: Smith, Parties and Slavery, pp. 88-93.]

[Footnote 399: MacDonald, Select Documents of the History of the
United States, No. 77.]

[Footnote 400: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 170.]

[Footnote 401: Douglas declined to serve on the Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs, because he was opposed to the policy of the majority,
so he afterward intimated. _Globe_, 32 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 268.]

[Footnote 402: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 173.]

[Footnote 403: _Globe_, 32 Cong., Special Sess., p. 261.]

[Footnote 404: _Ibid._, p. 262.]

[Footnote 405: _Globe_, 32 Cong., Special Sess., p. 276.]

[Footnote 406: _Ibid._, p. 262.]

[Footnote 407: _Globe_, 32 Cong., Special Sess., p. 275.]

[Footnote 408: _Globe_, 32 Cong., Special Sess., p. 273.]

[Footnote 409: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 443-444.]

[Footnote 410: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 444-445.]

[Footnote 411: Major McConnell in the Transactions of the Illinois
Historical Society, IV, p. 48; Linder, Early Bench and Bar of
Illinois, pp. 80-82.]

[Footnote 412: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 444.]

[Footnote 413: Conversation with Judge R.M. Douglas.]

[Footnote 414: Washington _Union_, and Illinois _State Register_, May
26 and November 6, 1853.]



With the occupation of Oregon and of the gold fields of California,
American colonization lost temporarily its conservative character.
That heel-and-toe process, which had hitherto marked the occupation of
the Mississippi Valley, seemed too slow and tame; the pace had
lengthened and quickened. Consequently there was a great
waste--No-man's-land--between the western boundary of Iowa, Missouri
and Arkansas, and the scattered communities on the Pacific slope. It
was a waste broken only by the presence of the Mormons in Utah, of
nomadic tribes of Indians on the plains, and of tribes of more settled
habits on the eastern border. In many cases these lands had been given
to Indian tribes in perpetuity, to compensate for the loss of their
original habitat in some of the Eastern States. With strange lack of
foresight, the national government had erected a barrier to its own

As early as 1844, Douglas had proposed a territorial government for
the region of which the Platte, or Nebraska, was the central
stream.[415] The chief trail to Oregon traversed these prairies and
plains. If the United States meant to assert and maintain its title to
Oregon, some sort of government was needed to protect emigrants, and
to supply a military basis for such forces as should be required to
hold the disputed country. Though the Secretary of War indorsed this
view,[416] Congress was not disposed to anticipate the occupation of
the prairies. Nebraska became almost a hobby with Douglas. He
introduced a second bill in 1848,[417] and a third in 1852,[418] all
designed to prepare the way for settled government.

The last of these was unique. Its provisions were designed, no doubt,
to meet the unusual conditions presented by the overland emigration to
California. Military protection for the emigrant, a telegraph line,
and an overland mail were among the ostensible objects. The military
force was to be a volunteer corps, which would construct military
posts and at the same time provide for its own maintenance by tilling
the soil. At the end of three years these military farmers were each
to receive 640 acres along the route, and thus form a sort of military
colony.[419] Douglas pressed the measure with great warmth; but
Southerners doubted the advisability of "encouraging new swarms to
leave the old hives," not wishing to foster an expansion in which they
could not share,[420] nor forgetting that this was free soil by the
terms of the Missouri Compromise. All sorts of objections were trumped
up to discredit the bill. Douglas was visibly irritated. "Sir," he
exclaimed, "it looks to me as if the design was to deprive us of
everything like protection in that vast region ... I must remind the
Senate again that the pointing out of these objections, and the
suggesting of these large expenditures show us that we are to expect
no protection at all; they evince direct, open hostility to that
section of the country."[421]

It was the fate of the Nebraska country to be bound up more or less
intimately with the agitation in favor of a Pacific railroad. All
sorts of projects were in the air. Asa Whitney had advocated, in
season and out, a railroad from Lake Michigan to some available harbor
on the Pacific. Douglas and his Chicago friends were naturally
interested in this enterprise. Benton, on the other hand, jealous for
the interests of St. Louis, advocated a "National Central Highway"
from that city to San Francisco, with branches to other points. The
South looked forward to a Pacific railroad which should follow a
southern route.[422] A northern or central route would inevitably open
a pathway through the Indian country and force on the settlement and
organization of the territory;[423] the choice of a southern route
would in all likelihood retard the development of Nebraska.

While Congress was shirking its duty toward Nebraska, the Wyandot
Indians, a civilized tribe occupying lands in the fork of the Kansas
and Missouri rivers, repeatedly memorialized Congress to grant them a
territorial government.[424] Dogged perseverance may be an Indian
characteristic, but there is reason to believe that outside
influences were working upon them. Across the border, in Missouri,
they had a staunch friend in ex-Senator Benton, who had reasons of his
own for furthering their petitions. In 1850, the opposition, which had
been steadily making headway against him, succeeded in deposing the
old parliamentarian and electing a Whig as his successor in the
Senate. The _coup d'état_ was effected largely through the efforts of
an aggressive pro-slavery faction led by Senator David E.
Atchison.[425] It was while his fortunes were waning in Missouri, that
Benton interested himself in the Central Highway and in the Wyandots.
His project, indeed, contemplated grants of land along the route, when
the Indian title should be extinguished.[426] Possibly it was Benton's
purpose to regain his footing in Missouri politics by advocating this
popular measure; possibly, as his opponents hinted, he looked forward
to residing in the new Territory and some day becoming its first
senator; at all events, he came to look upon the territorial
organization of Nebraska as an integral part of his larger railroad

In this wise, Missouri factional quarrels, Indian titles, railroads,
territorial government for Nebraska, and land grants had become
hopelessly tangled, when another bill for the organization of Nebraska
came before Congress in February, 1853.[427] The measure was presented
by Willard P. Hall, a representative from Missouri, belonging to the
Benton faction. His advocacy of the bill in the House throws a flood
of light on the motives actuating both friends and opponents.
Representatives from Texas evinced a poignant concern for the rights
of the poor Indian. Had he not been given these lands as a permanent
home, after being driven from the hunting ground of his fathers? To be
sure, there was a saving clause in the bill which promised to respect
Indian claims, but zeal for the Indian still burned hotly in the
breasts of these Texans. Finally, Hall retorted that Texas had for
years been trying to drive the wild tribes from her borders, so as to
make the northern routes unsafe and thus to force the tide of
emigration through Texas.[428] "Why, everybody is talking about a
railroad to the Pacific. In the name of God, how is the railroad to be
made, if you will never let people live on the lands through which the
road passes?"[429]

In other words, the concern of the Missourians was less for the
unprotected emigrant than for the great central railroad; while the
South cared less for the Indian than for a southern railroad route.
The Nebraska bill passed the House by a vote which suggests the
sectional differences involved in it.[430]

It was most significant that, while a bill to organize the Territory
of Washington passed at once to a third reading in the Senate, the
Nebraska bill hung fire. Douglas made repeated efforts to gain
consideration for it; but the opposition seems to have been motived
here as it was in the House.[431] On the last day of the session, the
Senate entered upon an irregular, desultory debate, without a quorum.
Douglas took an unwilling part. He repeated that the measure was "very
dear to his heart," that it involved "a matter of immense
importance," that the object in view was "to form a line of
territorial governments extending from the Mississippi valley to the
Pacific ocean." The very existence of the Union seemed to him to
depend upon this policy. For eight years he had advocated the
organization of Nebraska; he trusted that the favorable moment had
come.[432] But his trust was misplaced. The Senate refused to consider
the bill, the South voting almost solidly against it, though Atchison,
who had opposed the bill in the earlier part of the session, announced
his conversion,--for the reason that he saw no prospect of a repeal of
the Missouri Compromise. The Territory might as well be organized now
as ten years later.[433]

Disappointed by the inaction of Congress, the Wyandots took matters
into their own hands, and set up a provisional government.[434] Then
ensued a contest between the Missouri factions to name the territorial
delegate,--who was to present the claims of the new government to the
authorities at Washington. On November 7, 1853, Thomas Johnson, the
nominee of the Atchison faction, was elected.[435] In the meantime
Senator Atchison had again changed his mind: he was now opposed to the
organization of Nebraska, unless the Missouri Compromise were
repealed.[436] The motives which prompted this recantation can only be
surmised. Presumably, for some reason, Atchison no longer believed the
Missouri Compromise "irremediable."

The strangely unsettled condition of the great tract whose fate was
pending, is no better illustrated than by a second election which was
held on the upper Missouri. One Hadley D. Johnson, sometime member of
the Iowa legislature, hearing of the proposal of the Wyandots to send
a territorial delegate to Congress, invited his friends in western
Iowa to cross the river and hold an election. They responded by
choosing their enterprising compatriot for their delegate, who
promptly set out for Washington, bearing their mandate. Arriving at
the capital, he found Thomas Johnson already occupying a seat in the
House in the capacity of delegate-elect. Not to be outdone, the Iowa
Johnson somewhat surreptitiously secured his admission to the floor.
Subsequently, "the two Johnsons," as they were styled by the members,
were ousted, the House refusing very properly to recognize either.
Thomas Johnson exhibited some show of temper, but was placated by the
good sense of his rival, who proposed that they should strike for two
Territories instead of one. Why not; was not Nebraska large enough for

Under these circumstances, the question of Nebraska seemed likely to
recur. Certain Southern newspapers were openly demanding the removal
of the slavery restriction in the new Territory.[438] Yet the chairman
of the Senate Committee on Territories, who had just returned from
Europe, seems to have been unaware of the undercurrents whose surface
indications have been pointed out. He wrote confidentially on November
11th:[439] "It [the administration] has difficulties ahead, but it
must meet them boldly and fairly. There is a surplus revenue which
must be disposed of and the tariff reduced to a legitimate revenue
standard. It will not do to allow the surplus to accumulate in the
Treasury and thus create a pecuniary revulsion that would overwhelm
the business arrangements and financial affairs of the country. The
River and Harbor question must be met and decided. Now in my opinion
is the time to put those great interests on a more substantial and
secure basis by a well devised system of Tonnage duties. I do not know
what the administration will do on this question, but I hope they will
have the courage to do what we all feel to be right. The Pacific
railroad will also be a disturbing element. It will never do to
commence making railroads by the federal government under any pretext
of necessity. We can grant alternate sections of land as we did for
the Central Road, but not a dollar from the National Treasury. These
are the main questions and my opinions are foreshadowed as you are
entitled to know them."

In the same letter occurs an interesting personal allusion: "I see
many of the newspapers are holding me up as a candidate for the next
Presidency. I do not wish to occupy that position. I do not think I
will be willing to have my name used. I think such a state of things
will exist that I shall not desire the nomination. Yet I do not intend
to do any act which will deprive me of the control of my own action. I
shall remain entirely non-committal and hold myself at liberty to do
whatever my duty to my principles and my friends may require when the
time for action arrives. Our first duty is to the cause--the fate of
individual politicians is of minor consequence. The party is in a
distracted condition and it requires all our wisdom, prudence and
energy to consolidate its power and perpetuate its principles. Let us
leave the Presidency out of view for at least two years to come."

These are not the words of a man who is plotting a revolution. Had
Nebraska and the Missouri Compromise been uppermost in his thoughts,
he would have referred to the subject, for the letter was written in
strict confidence to friends, from whom he kept no secrets and before
whom he was not wont to pose.

Those better informed, however, believed that Congress would have to
deal with the territorial question in the near future. The Washington
_Union_, commonly regarded as the organ of the administration,
predicted that next to pressing foreign affairs, the Pacific railroad
and the Territories would occupy the attention of the
administration.[440] And before Congress assembled, or had been long in
session, the chairman of the Committee on Territories must have sensed
the situation, for on December 14, 1853, Senator Dodge of Iowa
introduced a bill for the organization of Nebraska, which was identical
with that of the last session.[441] The bill was promptly referred to
the Committee on Territories, and the Nebraska question entered upon
its last phase. Within a week, Douglas's friends of the Illinois State
_Register_ were sufficiently well informed of the thoughts and intents
of his mind to hazard this conjecture: "We believe they [the people of
Nebraska] may be safely left to act for themselves.... The territories
should be admitted to exercise, as nearly as practicable, all the
rights claimed by the States, and to adopt all such political
regulations and institutions as their wisdom may suggest."[442] A New
York correspondent announced on December 30th, that the committee would
soon report a bill for three Territories on the basis of New Mexico and
Utah; that is, without excluding or admitting slavery. "Climate and
nature and the necessary pursuits of the people who are to occupy the
territories," added the writer complacently, "will settle the
question--and these will effectually exclude slavery."[443]

These rumors foreshadowed the report of the committee. The problem was
to find a mode of overcoming the opposition of the South to the
organization of a Territory which would not only add eventually to the
number of free States, but also open up a northern route to the
Pacific. The price of concession from the South on the latter point
must be some apparent concession to the South in the matter of
slavery. The report of January 4, 1854, and the bill which accompanied
it, was Douglas's solution of the problem.[444] The principles of the
compromise measures of 1850 were to be affirmed and carried into
practical operation within the limits of the new Territory of
Nebraska. "In the judgment of your committee," read the report, "those
measures were intended to have a far more comprehensive and enduring
effect than the mere adjustment of the difficulties arising out of the
recent acquisition of Mexican territory. They were designed to
establish certain great principles ... your committee have deemed it
their duty to incorporate and perpetuate, in their territorial bill,
the principles and spirit of those measures. If any other
consideration were necessary, to render the propriety of this course
imperative upon the committee, they may be found in the fact that the
Nebraska country occupies the same relative position to the slavery
question, as did New Mexico and Utah, when those Territories were

Just as it was a disputed point, the report argued, whether slavery
was prohibited by law in the country acquired from Mexico, so it is
questioned whether slavery is prohibited in the Nebraska country by
_valid_ enactment. "In the opinion of those eminent statesmen, who
hold that Congress is invested with no rightful authority to legislate
upon the subject of slavery in the Territories, the 8th section of the
act preparatory to the admission of Missouri is null and void; while
the prevailing sentiment in large portions of the Union sustains the
doctrine that the Constitution of the United States secures to every
citizen an inalienable right to move into any of the Territories with
his property, of whatever kind and description, and to hold and enjoy
the same under the sanction of law. Your committee do not feel
themselves called upon to enter upon the discussion of these
controverted questions. They involve the same grave issues which
produced the agitation, the sectional strife, and the fearful struggle
of 1850." And just as Congress deemed it wise in 1850 to refrain from
deciding the matter in controversy, so "your committee are not
prepared now to recommend a departure from the course pursued on that
memorable occasion either by affirming or repealing the 8th section of
the Missouri act, or by any act declaratory of the meaning of the
Constitution in respect to the legal points in dispute." The essential
features of the Compromise of 1850, which should again be carried into
practical operation, were stated as follows:

"First: That all questions pertaining to slavery in the Territories,
and in the new States to be formed therefrom, are to be left to the
decision of the people residing therein, by their appropriate
representatives, to be chosen by them for that purpose.

"Second: That 'all cases involving title to slaves,' and 'questions of
personal freedom,' are referred to the adjudication of the local
tribunals, with the right of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United

"Third: That the provision of the Constitution of the United States,
in respect to fugitives from service, is to be carried into faithful
execution in all 'the organized Territories,' the same as in the

The substitute reported by the committee followed the Dodge bill
closely, but contained the additional statement. "And when admitted as
a State or States, the said Territory, or any part of the same, shall
be received into the Union, with or without slavery, as their
Constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission."[446] This
phraseology was identical with that of the Utah and New Mexico Acts.
The bill also made special provision for writs of error and appeals
from the territorial court to the Supreme Court of the United States,
in all cases involving title to slaves and personal freedom. This
feature, too, was copied from the Utah and New Mexico Acts. As first
printed in the Washington _Sentinel_, January 7th, the bill contained
no reference to the Missouri Compromise and no direct suggestion that
the territorial legislature would decide the question of slavery. The
wording of the bill and its general tenor gave the impression that the
prohibition of slavery would continue during the territorial status,
unless in the meantime the courts should declare the Missouri
Compromise null and void. Three days later, January 10th, the
_Sentinel_ reprinted the bill with an additional section, which had
been omitted by a "clerical error." This twenty-first section read,
"In order to avoid all misconstruction, it is hereby declared to be
the true intent and meaning of this act, so far as the question of
slavery is concerned, to carry into practical operation the following
propositions and principles, established by the compromise measures of
one thousand eight hundred and fifty, to wit:" then followed the three
propositions which had accompanied the report of January 4th. The last
of these three propositions had been slightly abbreviated: all
questions pertaining to slavery were to be left to the decision of the
people through their appropriate representatives, the clause "to be
chosen by them for that purpose" being omitted.

This additional section transformed the whole bill. For the first time
the people of the Territory are mentioned as the determining agents in
respect to slavery. And the unavoidable inference followed, that they
were not to be hampered in their choice by the restrictive feature of
the Missouri Act of 1820. The omission of this weighty section was
certainly a most extraordinary oversight. Whose was the "clerical
error"? Attached to the original draft, now in the custody of the
Secretary of the Senate, is a sheet of blue paper, in Douglas's
handwriting, containing the crucial article. All evidence points to
the conclusion that Douglas added this hastily, after the bill had
been twice read in the Senate and ordered to be printed; but whether
it was carelessly omitted by the copyist or appended by Douglas as an
afterthought, it is impossible to say.[447] After his report of
January 4th, there was surely no reason why Douglas should have
hesitated to incorporate the three propositions in the bill; but it is
perfectly obvious that with the appended section, the Nebraska bill
differed essentially from its prototypes, though Douglas contended
that he had only made explicit what was contained implicitly in the
Utah bill.

Two years later Douglas replied to certain criticisms from Trumbull in
these words: "He knew, or, if not, he ought to know, that the bill in
the shape in which it was first reported, as effectually repealed the
Missouri restriction as it afterwards did when the repeal was put in
express terms. The only question was whether it should be done in the
language of the acts of 1850, or in the language subsequently
employed, but the legal effect was precisely the same."[448] Of course
Douglas was here referring to the original bill containing the
twenty-first section.

It has commonly been assumed that Douglas desired the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise in order to open Nebraska to slavery. This was the
passionate accusation of his anti-slavery contemporaries; and it has
become the verdict of most historians. Yet there is ample evidence
that Douglas had no such wish and intent. He had said in 1850, and on
other occasions, that he believed the prairies to be dedicated to
freedom by a law above human power to repeal. Climate, topography, the
conditions of slave labor, which no Northern man knew better, forbade
slavery in the unoccupied areas of the West.[449] True, he had no such
horror of slavery extension as many Northern men manifested; he was
probably not averse to sacrificing some of the region dedicated by law
to freedom, if thereby he could carry out his cherished project of
developing the greater Northwest; but that he deliberately planned to
plant slavery in all that region, is contradicted by the
incontrovertible fact that he believed the area of slavery to be
circumscribed definitely by Nature. Man might propose but physical
geography would dispose.

The regrettable aspect of Douglas's course is his attempt to nullify
the Missouri Compromise by subtle indirection. This was the device of
a shifty politician, trying to avert suspicion and public alarm by
clever ambiguities. That he really believed a new principle had been
substituted for an old one, in dealing with the Territories, does not
extenuate the offense, for not even he had ventured to assert in 1850,
that the compromises of that year had in any wise disturbed the status
of the great, unorganized area to which Congress had applied the
restrictive proviso of 1820. Besides, only so recently as 1849, he had
said, with all the emphasis of sincerity, that the compromise had
"become canonized in the hearts of the American people, as a sacred
thing, which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless enough to
disturb." And while he then opposed the extension of the principle to
new Territories, he believed that it had been "deliberately
incorporated into our legislation as a solemn and sacred

By this time Douglas must have been aware of the covert purpose of
Atchison and others to secure the repeal of the Missouri Compromise,
though he hoped that they would acquiesce in his mode of doing it. He
was evidently not prepared for the bold move which certain of the
senators from slave States were contemplating.[451] He was therefore
startled by an amendment which Dixon of Kentucky offered on January
16th, to the effect that the restrictive clause of the Act of 1820
should not be so construed as to apply to Nebraska or any other
Territory; "but that the citizens of the several States or territories
shall be at liberty to take and hold their slaves within any of the
territories of the United States or of the States to be formed
therefrom," as if the Missouri Act had never been passed. Douglas at
once left his seat to remonstrate with Dixon, who was on the Whig side
of the Senate chamber. He disliked the amendment, not so much because
it wiped out the Missouri Compromise as because it seemed
"affirmatively to legislate slavery into the Territory."[452] Knowing
Dixon to be a supporter of the compromise measures of 1850, Douglas
begged him not to thwart the work of his committee, which was trying
in good faith to apply the cardinal features of those measures to
Nebraska. The latter part of Dixon's amendment could hardly be
harmonized with the principle of congressional non-intervention.[453]

There seems to be no reason to doubt that Dixon moved in this matter on
his own initiative;[454] but he was a friend to Atchison and he could
not have been wholly ignorant of the Missouri factional quarrel.[455]
To be sure, Dixon was a Whig, but Southern Whigs and Democrats were at
one in desiring expansion for the peculiar institution of their
section. Pressure was now brought to bear upon Douglas to incorporate
the direct repeal of the compromise in the Nebraska bill.[456] He
objected strongly, foreseeing no doubt the storm of protest which would
burst over his head in the North.[457] Still, if he could unite the
party on the principle of non-intervention with slavery in the
Territories, the risk of temporary unpopularity would be worth taking.
No doubt personal ambition played its part in forming his purpose, but
party considerations swayed him most powerfully.[458] He witnessed with
no little apprehension the divergence between the Northern and Southern
wings of the party; he had commented in private upon "the distracted
condition" of the party and the need of perpetuating its principles and
consolidating its power. Might this not be his opportunity?

On Sunday morning, January 22d, just before the hour for church,
Douglas, with several of his colleagues, called upon the Secretary of
War, Davis, stating that the Committees on Territories of the Senate
and House had agreed upon a bill, for which the President's approval
was desired. They pressed for an immediate interview inasmuch as they
desired to report the bill on the morrow. Somewhat reluctantly, Davis
arranged an interview for them, though the President was not in the
habit of receiving visitors on Sunday. Yielding to their request,
President Pierce took the proposed bill under consideration, giving
careful heed to all explanations; and when they were done, both he
and his influential secretary promised their support.[459]

What was this momentous bill to which the President thus pledged
himself? The title indicated the most striking feature. There were now
to be two Territories: Kansas and Nebraska. Bedded in the heart of
Section 14, however, was a still more important provision which
announced that the prohibition of slavery in the Act of 1820 had been
"superseded by the principles of the legislation of eighteen hundred
and fifty, commonly called the compromise measures," and was therefore

It has been commonly believed that Douglas contemplated making one
free and one slave State out of the Nebraska region. His own simple
explanation is far more credible: the two Johnsons had petitioned for
a division of the Territory along the fortieth parallel, and both the
Iowa and Missouri delegations believed that their local interests
would be better served by two Territories.[460]

Again Pacific railroad interests seem to have crossed the path of the
Nebraska bill. The suspicions of Delegate-elect Hadley Johnson had
been aroused by the neglect of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to
extinguish the claims of the Omaha Indians, whose lands lay directly
west of Iowa. At the last session, an appropriation had been made for
the purpose of extinguishing the Indian title to lands west of both
Missouri and Iowa; and everyone knew that this was a preliminary step
to settlement by whites. The appropriation had been zealously
advocated by representatives from Missouri, who frankly admitted that
the possession of these lands would make the Pacific railroad route
available. Now as the Indian Commissioner, who had before shown
himself an active partisan of Senator Atchison, rapidly pushed on the
treaties with the Indians west of Missouri and dallied with the
Omahas, the inference was unavoidable, that Iowa interests were being
sacrificed to Missouri interests. Such was the story that the Iowa
Johnson poured into the ear of Senator Douglas, to whom he was
presented by Senator Dodge.[461] The surest way to safeguard the
interests of Iowa was to divide the Territory of Nebraska, and give
Iowa her natural outlet to the West.

Senator Dodge had also come to this conclusion. Nebraska would be to
Iowa, what Iowa had been to Illinois. Were only one Territory
organized, the seat of government and leading thoroughfares would pass
to the south of Iowa.[462] Put in the language of the promoters of the
Pacific railroad, one Territory meant aid to the central route; two
Territories meant an equal chance for both northern and central
routes. As the representative of Chicago interests, Douglas was not
blind to these considerations.

On Monday, January 23d, Douglas reported the Kansas-Nebraska bill with
a brief word of explanation. Next day Senator Dixon expressed his
satisfaction with the amendment, which he interpreted as virtually
repealing the Missouri Compromise. He disclaimed any other wish or
intention than to secure the principle which the compromise measures
of 1850 had established.[463] An editorial in the Washington _Union_
threw the weight of the administration into the balance: "The
proposition of Mr. Douglas is a practical execution of the principles
of that compromise [of 1850], and therefore, cannot but be regarded by
the administration as a test of Democratic orthodoxy."[464]

While the administration publicly wheeled into line behind Douglas,
the "Appeal of the Independent Democrats in Congress to the People of
the United States" summoned the anti-slavery elements to join battle
in behalf of the Missouri Compromise. This memorable document had been
written by Chase of Ohio and dated January 19th, but a postscript was
added after the revised Kansas-Nebraska bill had been reported.[465]
It was an adroitly worded paper. History has falsified many of its
predictions; history then controverted many of its assumptions; but it
was colored with strong emotion and had the ring of righteous

The gist of the appeal was contained in two clauses, one of which
declared that the Nebraska bill would open all the unorganized
territory of the Union to the ingress of slavery; the other arraigned
the bill as "a gross violation of a sacred pledge; as a criminal
betrayal of precious rights." In ominous words, fellow citizens were
besought to observe how the blight of slavery would settle upon all
this land, if this bill should become a law. Christians and Christian
ministers were implored to interpose. "Let all protest, earnestly and
emphatically, by correspondence, through the press, by memorials, by
resolutions of public meetings and legislative bodies, and in whatever
other mode may seem expedient, against this enormous crime." In the
postscript Douglas received personal mention. "Not a man in Congress
or out of Congress, in 1850, pretended that the compromise measures
would repeal the Missouri prohibition. Mr. Douglas himself never
advanced such a pretence until this session. His own Nebraska bill, of
last session, rejected it. It is a sheer afterthought. To declare the
prohibition inoperative, may, indeed, have effect in law as a repeal,
but it is a most discreditable way of reaching the object. Will the
people permit their dearest interests to be thus made the mere hazards
of a presidential game, and destroyed by false facts and false

This attack roused the tiger in the Senator from Illinois. When he
addressed the Senate on January 30th, he labored under ill-repressed
anger. Even in the expurgated columns of the _Congressional Globe_
enough stinging personalities appeared to make his friends regretful.
What excited his wrath particularly was that Chase and Sumner had
asked for a postponement of discussion, in order to examine the bill,
and then, in the interval, had sent out their indictment of the
author. It was certainly unworthy of him to taunt them with having
desecrated the Sabbath day by writing their plea. The charge was not
only puerile but amusing, when one considers how Douglas himself was
observing that particular Sabbath.

It was comparatively easy to question and disprove the unqualified
statement of the _Appeal_, that "the original settled policy of the
United States was non-extension of slavery." Less convincing was
Douglas's attempt to prove that the Missouri Compromise was expressly
annulled in 1850, when portions of Texas and of the former Spanish
province of Louisiana were added to New Mexico, and also a part of the
province of Louisiana was joined to Utah. Douglas was in the main
correct as to geographical data; but he could not, and did not, prove
that the members of the Thirty-first Congress purposed also to revoke
the Missouri Compromise restriction in all the other unorganized
Territories. This contention was one of those _non-sequiturs_ of which
Douglas, in the heat of argument, was too often guilty. Still more
regrettable, because it seemed to convict him of sophistry, was the
mode by which he sought to evade the charge of the _Appeal_, that the
act organizing New Mexico and settling the boundary of Texas had
reaffirmed the Missouri Compromise. To establish his point he had to
assume that _all_ the land cut off from Texas north of 36° 30', was
added to New Mexico, thus leaving nothing to which the slavery
restriction, reaffirmed in the act of 1850, could apply. But Chase
afterward invalidated this assumption and Douglas was forced so to
qualify his original statement as to yield the point. This was a
damaging admission and prejudiced his cause before the country. But
when he brought his wide knowledge of American colonization to bear
upon the concrete problems of governmental policy, his grasp of the
situation was masterly.

"Let me ask you where you have succeeded in excluding slavery by an
act of Congress from one inch of American soil? You may tell me that
you did it in the northwest territory by the ordinance of 1787. I
will show you by the history of the country that you did not
accomplish any such thing. You prohibited slavery there by law, but
you did not exclude it in fact.... I know of but one territory of the
United States where slavery does exist, and that one is where you have
prohibited it by law, and it is in this very Nebraska Territory. In
defiance of the eighth section of the act of 1820, in defiance of
Congressional dictation, there have been, not many, but a few slaves
introduced.... I have no doubt that whether you organize the territory
of Nebraska or not this will continue for some time to come.... But
when settlers rush in--when labor becomes plenty, and therefore cheap,
in that climate, with its productions, it is worse than folly to think
of its being a slave-holding country.... I do not like, I never did
like, the system of legislation on our part, by which a geographical
line, in violation of the laws of nature, and climate, and soil, and
of the laws of God, should be run to establish institutions for a

The fate of the bill was determined behind closed doors. After all,
the Senate chamber was only a public clearing-house, where senators
elucidated, or per-chance befogged, the issues. The real arena was the
Democratic caucus. Under the leadership of Douglas, those high in the
party conclaves met, morning after morning, in the endeavor to compose
the sharp differences between the Northern and the Southern wings of
the party.[468] On both sides, there was a disposition to agree on the
repeal of the Missouri Compromise, though grave misgivings were felt.
There were Southern men who believed that the repeal would be "an
unavailing boon"; and there were Northern politicians who foresaw the
storm of popular indignation that would break upon their heads.[469]
Southern Democrats were disposed to follow the South Carolina theory
to its logical extreme: as joint owners of the Territories the
citizens of all the States might carry their property into the
Territories without let or hindrance; only the people of the Territory
in the act of framing a State constitution might exclude slavery.
Neither Congress nor a territorial legislature might take away
property in slaves. With equal pertinacity, Douglas and his supporters
advocated the right of the people in their territorial status, to
mould their institutions as they chose. Was there any middle ground?

Prolonged discussion made certain points of agreement clear to all. It
was found that no one questioned the right of a State, with sufficient
population and a republican constitution, to enter the Union with or
without slavery as it chose. All agreed that it was best that slavery
should not be discussed in Congress. All agreed that, whether or no
Congress had the power to exclude slavery in the Territories, it ought
not to exercise it. All agreed that if Congress had such power, it
ought to delegate it to the people. Here agreement ceased. Did
Congress have such power? Clearly the law of the Constitution could
alone determine. Then why not delegate the power to control their
domestic institutions to the people of the Territories, subject to the
provisions of the Constitution? "And then," said one of the
participants later, "in order to provide a means by which the
Constitution could govern ... we of the South, conscious that we were
right, the North asserting the same confidence in its own doctrines,
agreed that every question touching human slavery or human freedom
should be appealable to the Supreme Court of the United States for its

While this compromise was being reached in caucus, the bill was under
constant fire on the floor of the Senate. The _Appeal of the
Independent Democrats_ had bitterly arraigned the declaratory part of
the Kansas-Nebraska bill, where the Missouri Compromise was said to
have been superseded and therefore inoperative. Even staunch Democrats
like Cass had taken exception to this phraseology, preferring to
declare the Missouri Compromise null and void in unequivocal terms. To
Douglas there was nothing ambiguous or misleading in the wording of
the clause. What was meant was this: the acts of 1850 rendered the
Missouri Compromise _inoperative_ in Utah and New Mexico; but so far
as the Missouri Compromise applied to territory not embraced in those
acts, it was _superseded_ by the great principle established in 1850.
"Superseded by" meant "inconsistent with" the compromise of 1850.[471]
The word "supersede," however, continued to cause offense. Cass read
from the dictionary to prove that the word had a more positive force
than Douglas gave to it. To supersede meant to set aside: he could
not bring himself to assent to this statement.[472]

By this time agreement had been reached in the caucus, so that Douglas
was quite willing to modify the phraseology of the bill. "We see,"
said he, "that the difference here is only a difference as to the
appropriate word to be used. We all agree in the principle which we
now propose to establish." As he was not satisfied with the phrases
suggested, he desired some time to consult with friends of the bill,
as to which word would best "carry out the idea which we are intending
to put into practical operation by this bill."[473]

On the following day, February 7th, Douglas reported, not merely "the
appropriate word," but an entirely new clause, the product of the
caucus deliberations.

The eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri
into the Union is no longer said to be superseded, but "being
inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with
slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the
legislation of 1850, (commonly called the Compromise Measures) is
hereby declared inoperative and void, it being the true intent and
meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or
State, nor 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 Constitution of the United

This part of the bill had now assumed its final form. _Subject only to
the Constitution of the United States_. The words were clear; but
what was their implication? A few days later, Douglas wrote to his
Springfield confidant, "The Democratic party is committed in the most
solemn manner to the principle of congressional non-interference with
slavery in the States and Territories. The administration is committed
to the Nebraska bill and will stand by it at all hazards.... The
principle of this bill will form the test of parties, and the only
alternative is either to stand with the Democracy or rally under
Seward, John Van Buren & Co.... We shall pass the Nebraska bill in
both Houses by decisive majorities and the party will then be stronger
than ever, for it will be united upon principle."[475]

Yet there were dissentient opinions. What was in the background of
Southern consciousness was expressed bluntly by Brown of Mississippi,
who refused to admit that the right of the people of a Territory to
regulate their domestic institutions, including slavery, was a right
to destroy. "If I thought in voting for the bill as it now stands, I
was conceding the right of the people in the territory, during their
territorial existence, to exclude slavery, I would withhold my
vote.... It leaves the question where I am quite willing it should be
left--to the ultimate decision of the courts."[476] Chase also, though
for widely different reasons, disputed the power of the people of a
Territory to exclude slavery, under the terms of this bill.[477] And
Senator Clayton pointed out that non-interference was a delusion, so
long as it lay within the power of any member of Congress to move a
repeal of any and every territorial law which came up for approval,
for the bill expressly provided for congressional approval of
territorial laws.[478]

Douglas was irritated by these aspersions on his cherished principle.
He declared again, in defiant tones, that the right of the people to
permit or exclude was clearly included in the wording of the measure.
He was not willing to be lectured about indirectness. He had heard
cavil enough about his amendments.[479]

In the course of a debate on March 2d, another unforeseen difficulty
loomed up in the distance. If the Missouri Compromise were repealed,
would not the original laws of Louisiana, which legalized slavery, be
revived? How then could the people of the Territories be free to
legislate against slavery? It was a knotty question, testing the best
legal minds in the Senate; and it was dispatched only by an amendment
which stated that the repeal of the Missouri Compromise should not
revive any antecedent law respecting slavery.[480]

The objection raised by Clayton still remained: how was it possible to
reconcile congressional non-intervention with the right of Congress to
revise territorial laws? Now Douglas had never contended that the
right of the people to self-government in the Territories was complete
as against the power of Congress. He had never sought to confer upon
them more than a relative degree of self-government--"the power to
regulate their domestic institutions." He could not, and he did not,
deny the truth and awkwardness of Clayton's contention. Where, then,
demanded his critics, was the guarantee that the Kansas-Nebraska bill
would banish the slavery controversies from Congress? This challenge
could not go unanswered. Without other explanation, Douglas moved to
strike out the provision requiring all territorial laws to be
submitted to Congress.[481] But did this divest Congress of the power
of revision? On this point Douglas preserved a discreet silence.

Recognizing also the incongruity of giving an absolute veto power to a
governor who would be appointed by the President, Douglas proposed a
suspensive, in place of an absolute, veto power. A two-thirds vote in
each branch of the territorial legislature would override the
governor's negative.[482] Chase now tried to push Douglas one step
farther on the same slippery road. "Can it be said," he asked, "that
the people of a territory will enjoy self-government when they elect
only their legislators and are subject to a governor, judges, and a
secretary appointed by the Federal Executive?" He would amend by
making all these officers elective.[483] Douglas extricated himself
from this predicament by saying simply that these officers were
charged with federal rather than with territorial duties.[484] The
amendment was promptly negatived. Yet seven years later, this very
proposition was indorsed by Douglas under peculiar circumstances. At
this time in 1854, it would have effected nothing short of a
revolution in American territorial policy; and it might have altered
the whole history of Kansas.

Despite asseverations to the contrary, there were Southern men in
Congress who nourished the tacit hope that another slave State might
be gained west of the Missouri. There was a growing conviction among
Southern people that the possession of Kansas at least might be
successfully contested.[485] At all events, no barrier to Southern
immigration into the Territory was allowed to remain in the bill.
Objection was raised to the provision, common to nearly all
territorial bills, that aliens, who had declared their intention of
becoming citizens, should be permitted to vote in territorial
elections. In a contest with the North for the possession of the
territorial government, the South would be at an obvious disadvantage,
if the homeless aliens in the North could be colonized in Kansas, for
there was no appreciable alien population in the Southern States.[486]
So it was that Clayton's amendment, to restrict the right to vote and
to hold office to citizens of the United States, received the solid
vote of the South in the Senate. It is significant that Douglas voted
with his section on this important issue. There can be no better proof
of his desire that freedom should prevail in the new Territories. The
Clayton amendment, however, passed the Senate by a close vote.[487]

On the 2d of March the Kansas-Nebraska bill went to a third reading by
a vote of twenty-nine to twelve; its passage was thus assured.[488]
Debate continued, however, during the afternoon and evening of the
next day. Friends of the bill had agreed that it should be brought to
a vote on this night. The privilege of closing the debate belonged to
the chairman of the Committee on Territories; but in view of the
lateness of the hour, he offered to waive his privilege and let a vote
be taken. Voices were raised in protest, however, and Douglas yielded
to the urgent request of his friends.[489]

The speech of Douglas was a characteristic performance. It abounded in
repetitions, and it can hardly be said to have contributed much to the
understanding of the issues. Yet it was a memorable effort, because it
exhibited the magnificent fighting qualities of the man. He was
completely master of himself. He permitted interruptions by his
opponents; he invited them; indeed, at times, he welcomed them; but at
no time was he at a loss for a reply. Dialectically he was on this
occasion more than a match for Chase and Seward. There were no studied
effects in his oratory. Knowing himself to be addressing a wider
audience than the Senate chamber and its crowded galleries, he
appealed with intuitive keenness to certain fundamental traits in his
constituents. Americans admire self-reliance even in an opponent, and
the spectacle of a man fighting against personal injustice is often
likely to make them forget the principle for which he stands. So
Seward, who surely had no love for Douglas and no respect for his
political creed, was moved to exclaim in frank admiration, "I hope the
Senator will yield for a moment, because I have never had so much
respect for him as I have tonight." When Chase assured Douglas that he
always purposed to treat the Senator from Illinois with entire
courtesy, Douglas retorted: "The Senator says that he never intended
to do me injustice.... Sir, did he not say in the same document to
which I have already alluded, that I was engaged, with others, 'in a
criminal betrayal of precious rights,' 'in an atrocious plot'?... Did
he not say everything calculated to produce and bring upon my head all
the insults to which I have been subjected publicly and privately--not
even excepting the insulting letters which I have received from his
constituents, rejoicing at my domestic bereavements, and praying that
other and similar calamities may befall me!"[490]

In much the same way, he turned upon Sumner, as the collaborator of
the _Appeal_. Here was one who had begun his career as an Abolitionist
in the Senate, with the words "Strike but hear me first," but who had
helped to close the doors of Faneuil Hall against Webster, when he
sought to speak in self-defense in 1850, and who now--such was the
implication--was denying simple justice to another patriot.[491]

Personalities aside, the burden of his speech was the reassertion of
his principle of popular sovereignty. He showed how far he had
traveled since the Fourth of January in no way more strikingly, than
when he called in question the substantive character of the Missouri
Compromise. In his discussion of the legislative history of the
Missouri acts, he easily convicted both Chase and Seward of
misapprehensions; but he refused to recognize the truth of Chase's
words, that "the facts of the transaction taken together and as
understood by the country for more than thirty years, constitute a
compact binding in moral force," though expressed only in the terms of
ordinary statutes. So far had Douglas gone in his advocacy of his
measure that he had lost the measure of popular sentiment. He was so
confident of himself and his cause, so well-assured that he had
sacrificed nothing but an empty form, in repealing the slavery
restriction, that he forgot the popular mind does not so readily cast
aside its prejudices and grasp substance in preference to form. The
combative instinct in him was strong. He had entered upon a quarrel;
he would acquit himself well. Besides, he had supreme confidence that
popular intelligence would slowly approve his course.

Perhaps Douglas's greatest achievement on this occasion was in coining
a phrase which was to become a veritable slogan in succeeding years.
That which had hitherto been dubbed "squatter sovereignty," Douglas
now dignified with the name "popular sovereignty," and provided with a
pedigree. "This was the principle upon which the colonies separated
from the crown of Great Britain, the principle upon which the battles
of the Revolution were fought, and the principle upon which our
republican system was founded.... The Revolution grew out of the
assertion of the right on the part of the imperial government to
interfere with the internal affairs and domestic concerns of the
colonies.... I will not weary the Senate in multiplying evidence upon
this point. It is apparent that the Declaration of Independence had
its origin in the violation of the great fundamental principle which
secured to the people of the colonies the right to regulate their own
domestic affairs in their own way; and that the Revolution resulted in
the triumph of that principle, and the recognition of the right
asserted by it."[492]

In conclusion, Douglas said with perfect truthfulness: "I have not
brought this question forward as a Northern man or as a Southern man.
I am unwilling to recognize such divisions and distinctions. I have
brought it forward as an American Senator, representing a State which
is true to this principle, and which has approved of my action in
respect to the Nebraska bill. I have brought it forward not as an act
of justice to the South more than to the North. I have presented it
especially as an act of justice to the people of those Territories,
and of the States to be formed therefrom, now and in all time to

Nor did he seem to entertain a doubt as to the universal appeal which
his principle would make: "I say frankly that, in my opinion, this
measure will be as popular at the North as at the South, when its
provisions and principles shall have been fully developed and become
well understood. The people at the North are attached to the
principles of self-government; and you cannot convince them that that
is self-government which deprives a people of the right of legislating
for themselves, and compels them to receive laws which are forced upon
them by a legislature in which they are not represented."[494]

The rising indignation at the North against the Kansas-Nebraska bill
was felt much more directly in the House than in the Senate. So strong
was the counter-current that the Senate bill was at first referred to
the Committee of the Whole, and thus buried for weeks under a mass of
other bills. Many believed that the bill had received a quietus for
the session. Not so Douglas and his friend Richardson of Illinois, who
was chairman of the Committee on Territories. With a patience born of
long parliamentary experience, they bided their time. In the
meantime, every possible influence was brought to bear upon
recalcitrant Democrats. And just here the wisdom of Douglas, in first
securing the support of the administration, was vindicated. All those
devices were invoked which President and cabinet could employ through
the use of the Federal patronage, so that when Richardson, on the 8th
of May, called upon the House to lay aside one by one the eighteen
bills which preceded the Kansas-Nebraska bill, he was assured of a
working majority. The House bill having thus been reached, Richardson
substituted for it the Senate bill, minus the Clayton amendment. When
he then announced that only four days would be allowed for debate, the
obstructionists could no longer contain themselves. Scenes of wild
excitement followed. In the end, the friends of the bill yielded to
the demand for longer discussion. Debate was prolonged until May 22d,
when the bill passed by a vote of 113 to 110, in the face of bitter

Through all these exciting days, Douglas was constantly at
Richardson's side, cautioning and advising. He was well within the
truth when he said, in confidential chat with Madison Cutts, "I passed
the Kansas-Nebraska Act myself. I had the authority and power of a
dictator throughout the whole controversy in both houses. The speeches
were nothing. It was the marshalling and directing of men, and
guarding from attacks, and with a ceaseless vigilance preventing

The refusal of the House to accept the Clayton amendment brought the
Kansas-Nebraska measure again before the Senate. Knowing that a
refusal to concur would probably defeat the measure for the session,
Southern senators were disposed to waive their objections to allowing
aliens to vote in the new Territories. Even Atchison was now disposed
to think the matter of little consequence. Foreigners were not the
pioneers in the Territories; they followed the pioneers. He did not
complete his thought, but it is unmistakable: therefore, native
citizens as first-comers, rather than foreigners, would probably
decide the question of slavery in the Territories forever. And so,
after two days of debate, Douglas again had his way: the Senate voted
to recede from the Clayton amendment. On May 30th, the President
signed the Kansas-Nebraska bill and it became law.[496]

The outburst of wrath at the North which accompanied the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise did not augur well for the future repose of the
country. Douglas had anticipated angry demonstrations; but even he was
disturbed by the vehemence of the protestations which penetrated to
the Senate chamber. Had he failed to gauge the depth of Northern
public opinion? Senator Everett disturbed the momentary quiet of
Congress by presenting a memorial signed by over three thousand New
England clergymen, who, "in the name of Almighty God," protested
against the Kansas-Nebraska Act as a great moral wrong and as a breach
of faith. This brought Douglas to his feet. With fierce invective he
declared this whole movement was instigated by the circulars sent out
by the Abolition confederates in the Senate. These preachers had been
led by an atrocious falsehood "to desecrate the pulpit, and prostitute
the sacred desk to the miserable and corrupting influence of party
politics." What right had these misguided men to speak in the name of
Almighty God upon a political question? It was an attempt to establish
in this country the doctrine that clergymen have a peculiar right to
determine the will of God in legislative matters. This was

Some weeks later, Douglas himself presented another protest, signed by
over five hundred clergymen of the Northwest and accompanied by
resolutions which denounced the Senator from Illinois for his "want of
courtesy and reverence toward man and God."[498] His comments upon
this protest were not calculated to restore him to favor among these
"divinely appointed ministers for the declaration and enforcement of
God's will." His public letter to them, however, was much more
creditable, for in it he avoided abusive language and appealed frankly
to the sober sense of the clergy.[499] Of the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise, he said again that it was necessary, "in order to
recognize the great principle of self-government and State equality.
It does not vary the question in any degree, that human slavery, in
your opinion, is a great moral wrong. If so, it is not the only wrong
upon which the people of each of the States and Territories of this
Union are called upon to act.... You think you are abundantly
competent to decide this question now and forever. If you should
remove to Nebraska, with a view of making it your permanent home,
would you be any less competent to decide it when you should have
arrived in the country?"[500]

The obloquy which Douglas encountered in Washington was mere child's
play, as compared with the storm of abuse that met him on his return
to Chicago. He afterwards said that he could travel from Boston to
Chicago by the light of his own effigies.[501] "Traitor,"
"Arnold,"--with a suggestion that he had the blood of Benedict Arnold
in his veins,--"Judas," were epithets hurled at him from desk and
pulpit. He was presented with thirty pieces of silver by some
indignant females in an Ohio village.[502] So incensed were the people
of Chicago, that his friends advised him not to return, fearing that
he would be assaulted.[503] But fear was a sensation that he had never
experienced. He went to Chicago confident that he could silence
opposition as he had done four years before.[504]

Three or four days after his return, he announced that on the night of
September 1st, he would address his constituents in front of North
Market Hall. The announcement occasioned great excitement. The
opposition press cautioned their readers not to be deceived by his
sophistries, and hinted broadly at the advisability of breaking up the
meeting.[505] Many friends of Douglas believed that personal violence
was threatened. During the afternoon flags were hung at half mast on
the lake boats; bells were tolled, as the crowds began to gather in
the dusk of the evening; some public calamity seemed to impend. At a
quarter past eight, Douglas began to address the people. He was
greeted with hisses. He paused until these had subsided. But no sooner
did he begin again than bedlam broke loose. For over two hours he
wrestled with the mob, appealing to their sense of fairness; but he
could not gain a hearing. Finally, for the first time in his career,
he was forced to admit defeat. Drawing his watch from his pocket and
observing that the hour was late, he shouted, in an interval of
comparative quiet, "It is now Sunday morning--I'll go to church, and
you may go to Hell!" At the imminent risk of his life, he went to his
carriage and was driven through the crowds to his hotel.[506]

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 415: House Bill No. 444; 28 Cong., 2 Sess.]

[Footnote 416: Executive Docs., 32 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 124.]

[Footnote 417: House Bill, No. 170; 30 Cong., 1 Sess.]

[Footnote 418: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1161.]

[Footnote 419: _Ibid._, pp. 1684-1685.]

[Footnote 420: _Ibid._, p. 1760. Clingman afterward admitted that the
Southern opposition was motived by reluctance to admit new free
Territories. "This feeling was felt rather than expressed in words."
Clingman, Speeches and Writings, p. 334.]

[Footnote 421: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1762.]

[Footnote 422: See Davis, Union Pacific Railway, Chap. 3.]

[Footnote 423: See Benton's remarks in the House, _Globe_, 31 Cong., 2
Sess., p. 56.]

[Footnote 424: Connelley, The Provisional Government of the Nebraska
Territory, published by the Nebraska State Historical Society, pp.

[Footnote 425: Connelley, Provisional Government, p. 28.]

[Footnote 426: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 56-58.]

[Footnote 427: House Bill No. 353; 32 Cong., 2 Sess.]

[Footnote 428: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 558.]

[Footnote 429: _Ibid._, p. 560.]

[Footnote 430: _Ibid._, p. 565.]

[Footnote 431: _Ibid._, p. 1020.]

[Footnote 432: _Globe_ 32 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 1116-1117.]

[Footnote 433: _Ibid._, p. 1113.]

[Footnote 434: Connelley, Provisional Government, pp. 43 ff.]

[Footnote 435: _Ibid._, pp. 37-41.]

[Footnote 436: Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, p. 183; Connelley,
pp. 70-77.]

[Footnote 437: See Hadley D. Johnson's account in the Transactions of
the Nebraska Historical Society, Vol. II.]

[Footnote 438: Illinois _State Register_, December 22, 1853.]

[Footnote 439: MS. Letter to the editors of the Illinois _State
Register_, dated November 11, 1853.]

[Footnote 440: Washington _Union_, December 3, 1853. See also item
showing the interest in Nebraska, in the issue of November 26.]

[Footnote 441: Senate Bill No. 22. The bounds were fixed at 43° on the
north; 36° 30' on the south, except where the boundary of New Mexico
marked the line; the western line of Iowa and Missouri on the east;
and the Rocky Mountains on the west.]

[Footnote 442: Illinois _State Register_, December 22, 1853.]

[Footnote 443: New York _Journal of Commerce_, December 30, 1853.]

[Footnote 444: Two years later, Douglas flatly denied that he had
brought in the bill at the dictation of Atchison or any one else; and
I see no good ground on which to doubt his word. His own statement was
that he first consulted with Senator Bright and one other Senator from
the Northwest, and then took counsel with Southern friends. See
_Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 392-393; also Rhodes, History of
the United States, I, pp. 431-432. Mr. Rhodes is no doubt correct,
when he says "the committee on territories was Douglas."]

[Footnote 445: Senate Report No. 15, 33 Cong., 1 Sess.]

[Footnote 446: The northern boundary was extended to the 49th

[Footnote 447: The first twenty sections are written on white paper,
in the handwriting of a copyist. In pencil at the end are the words:
"Douglas reports Bill & read I & to 2 reading special report Print
agreed." The blue paper in Douglas's handwriting covers part of these
last words. The sheet has been torn in halves, but pasted together
again and attached by sealing wax to the main draft. The handwriting
betrays haste.]

[Footnote 448: _Globe,_34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1374.]

[Footnote 449: See his speech of March, 1850, quoted above. In a
letter to the editor of _State Capital Reporter_ (Concord, N.H.),
February 16, 1854, Douglas intimated as strongly as he then dared--the
bill was still pending,--that "the sons of New England" in the West
would exclude slavery from that region which lay in the same latitude
as New York and Pennsylvania, and for much the same reasons that
slavery had been abolished! in those States; see also Transactions of
Illinois State Historical Society, 1900, pp. 48-49.]

[Footnote 450: Speech before the Illinois Legislature, October 23,
1849; see Illinois _State Register_, November 8, 1849.]

[Footnote 451: The Southern Whigs were ready to support the Dixon
Amendment, according to Clingman, Speeches and Writings, p. 335.]

[Footnote 452: See remarks of Douglas, January 24th, _Globe_, 33
Cong., 1 Sess., p. 240.]

[Footnote 453: Letter of Dixon to Foote, September 30, 1858, in Flint,
Douglas, pp. 138-141.]

[Footnote 454: Dixon, True History of the Repeal of the Missouri

[Footnote 455: Parker, Secret History of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, in
the _National Quarterly Review_, July, 1880.]

[Footnote 456: Parker, Secret History of the Kansas-Nebraska Act; also
Foote, Casket of Reminiscences, p. 93; also Cox, Three Decades of
Federal Legislation, p. 49.]

[Footnote 457: _Ibid._ Dixon's account of his interview with Douglas
is too melodramatic to be taken literally, but no doubt it reveals
Douglas's agitation.]

[Footnote 458: This was Greeley's interpretation, _Tribune_, June 1,

[Footnote 459: Jefferson Davis to Mrs. Dixon, September 27, 1879, in
Dixon, True History of the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, pp. 457

[Footnote 460: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 221.]

[Footnote 461: Transactions of the Nebraska Historical Society, Vol.
II, p. 90.]

[Footnote 462: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 382.]

[Footnote 463: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 239-240.]

[Footnote 464: Washington _Union_, January 24, 1854.]

[Footnote 465: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 282.]

[Footnote 466: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 281-282.]

[Footnote 467: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 278-279.]

[Footnote 468: See remarks of Senator Bell of Tennessee, May 24, 1854,
in _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 939-940; also see statement
of Benjamin in _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1093.]

[Footnote 469: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App. pp. 414-415; p. 943.]

[Footnote 470: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1093. This statement by
Senator Benjamin was corroborated by Douglas and by Hunter of
Virginia, during the debates, see _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p.
224. See also the letter of A.H. Stephens, May 9, 1860, in _Globe_, 36
Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 315-316.]

[Footnote 471: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 343-344.]

[Footnote 472: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 344.]

[Footnote 473: _Ibid._, p. 344.]

[Footnote 474: _Ibid._, p. 353.]

[Footnote 475: MS. Letter, Douglas to Lanphier, February 13, 1854.]

[Footnote 476: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 232.]

[Footnote 477: _Ibid._, pp. 279-280.]

[Footnote 478: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 391.]

[Footnote 479: _Ibid._, pp. 287-288.]

[Footnote 480: _Ibid._, p. 296.]

[Footnote 481: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 296-297.]

[Footnote 482: _Ibid._, p. 297.]

[Footnote 483: _Ibid._, p. 298.]

[Footnote 484: _Ibid._, p. 298.]

[Footnote 485: See remarks of Bell; _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App.,
pp. 414-415; and also later, _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p.

[Footnote 486: See remarks of Atchison, _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess.,
App., p. 302.]

[Footnote 487: _Ibid._, p. 298.]

[Footnote 488: _Ibid._, p. 302.]

[Footnote 489: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 325.]

[Footnote 490: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 332.]

[Footnote 491: _Ibid._, p. 332.]

[Footnote 492: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 337.]

[Footnote 493: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 338.]

[Footnote 494: _Ibid._, p. 338.]

[Footnote 495: Cutts, Treatise on Constitutional and Party Questions,
pp. 122-123.]

[Footnote 496: That the President believed with Douglas that the
benefits of the Act would inure to freedom, is vouched for by
ex-Senator Clemens of Alabama. See Illinois _State Register_, April 6,

[Footnote 497: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 618, 621.]

[Footnote 498: _Ibid._, App., p. 654.]

[Footnote 499: _Ibid._, App., pp. 657-661.]

[Footnote 500: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 661.]

[Footnote 501: Speech at Wooster, Ohio, 1859, Philadelphia _Press_,
September 26, 1859.]

[Footnote 502: Rhodes, History of the United States, I, p. 496.]

[Footnote 503: Cutts, Constitutional and Party Questions, p. 98.]

[Footnote 504: "I speak to the people of Chicago on Friday next,
September 1, on Nebraska. They threaten a mob but I have no fears. All
will be right.... Come up if you can and bring our friends with you."
MS. Letter, Douglas to Lanphier, August 25, 1854.]

[Footnote 505: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, p. 640.]

[Footnote 506: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 271-273. Cutts, Constitutional
and Party Questions, pp. 98-101. New York _Times_, September 6,



The passing of the Whig party after its defeat in the election of
1852, must be counted among the most momentous facts in our political
history. Whatever were its errors, whatever its shortcomings, it was
at least a national organization, with a membership that embraced
anti-slavery Northerners and slave-holding Southerners, Easterners and
Westerners. As events proved, there was no national organization to
take its place. One of the two political ties had snapped that had
held together North and South. The Democratic party alone could lay
claim to a national organization and membership.

Party has been an important factor in maintaining national unity. The
dangers to the Union from rapid territorial expansion have not always
been realized. The attachment of new Western communities to the Union
has too often been taken as a matter of course. Even when the danger
of separation was small, the isolation and provincialism of the new
West was a real menace to national welfare. Social institutions did
their part in integrating East and West; but the politically
integrating force was supplied by party. Through their membership in
national party organizations, the most remote Western pioneers were
energized to think and act on national issues.[507] In much the same
way, the great party organizations retarded the growth of
sectionalism at the South. The very fact that party ties held long
after social institutions had been broken asunder, proves their
superior cohesion and nationalizing power. The inertia of parties
during the prolonged slavery controversy was an element of strength.
Because these formal organizations did not lend themselves readily to
radical policies, they provided a frame-work, within which adjustments
of differences were effected without danger to the Union. Had
Abolitionists of the radical type taken possession of the organization
of either party, can it be doubted that the Union would have been
imperiled much earlier than it was, and very probably when it could
not have withstood the shock?

No one who views history calmly will maintain, that it would have been
well for either the radical or the conservative to have been dominant
permanently. If the radical were always able to give application to
his passing, restless humors, society would lose its coherence. If the
conservative always had his way, civilization would stagnate. It was a
fortunate circumstance that neither the Whig nor the Democratic party
was composed wholly either of radicals or conservatives. Party action
was thus a resultant. If it was neither so radical as the most radical
could desire, nor so conservative as the ultra-conservative wished, at
least it safeguarded the Union and secured the political achievements
of the past. Moreover, the two great party organizations had done much
to assimilate the foreign elements injected into our population. No
doubt the politician who cultivated "the Irish vote" or "the German
vote," was obeying no higher law than his own interests; but his
activities did much to promote that fusion of heterogeneous elements
which has been one of the most extraordinary phenomena of American
society. With the disappearance of the Whig party, one of the two
great agencies in the disciplining and educating of the immigrant was

For a time the Native American party seemed likely to take the place
of the moribund Whig party. Many Whigs whose loyalty had grown cold
but who would not go over to the enemy, took refuge in the new party.
But Native Americanism had no enduring strength. Its tenets and its
methods were in flat contradiction to true American precedents.
Greeley was right when he said of the new party, "It would seem as
devoid of the elements of persistence as an anti-cholera or an
anti-potato-rot party would be." By its avowed hostility to Catholics
and foreigners, by its insistence upon America for Americans, and by
its secrecy, it forfeited all real claims to succeed the Whig party as
a national organization.

After the downfall of the Whig party, then, the Democratic party stood
alone as a truly national party, preserving the integrity of its
national organization and the bulk of its legitimate members. But the
events of President Pierce's administration threatened to be its
undoing. If the Kansas-Nebraska bill served to unite outwardly the
Northern and Southern wings of the party, it served also to
crystallize those anti-slavery elements which had hitherto been held
in solution. An anti-Nebraska coalition was the outcome. Out of this
opposition sprang eventually the Republican party, which was,
therefore, in its inception, national neither in its organization nor
in its membership.

For "Know-Nothingism," as Native Americanism was derisively called,
Douglas had exhibited the liveliest antipathy. Shortly after the
triumph of the Know-Nothings in the municipal elections of
Philadelphia, he was called upon to give the Independence Day address
in the historic Independence Square.[508] With an audacity rarely
equalled, he seized the occasion to defend the great principle of
self-government as incorporated in the Nebraska bill, just become law,
and to beard Know-Nothingism in its den. Under guise of defending
national institutions and American principles, he turned his oration
into what was virtually the first campaign speech of the year in
behalf of Democracy. Never before were the advantages of a party name
so apparent. Under his skillful touch the cause of popular government,
democracy, religious and civil liberty, became confounded with the
cause of Democracy, the only party of the nation which stood opposed
to "the allied forces of Abolitionism, Whigism, Nativeism, and
religious intolerance, under whatever name or on whatever field they
may present themselves."[509]

There can be no doubt that Douglas voiced his inmost feeling, when he
declared that "to proscribe a man in this country on account of his
birthplace or religious faith is revolting to our sense of justice and
right."[510] In his defense of religious toleration he rose to heights
of real eloquence.

Douglas paid dearly for this assault upon Know-Nothingism. The order
had organized lodges also in the Northwest, and when Douglas returned
to his own constituency after the adjournment of Congress, he found
the enemy in possession of his own redoubts. With some show of reason,
he afterward attributed the demonstration against him in Chicago to
the machinations of the Know-Nothings. His experience with the mob
left no manner of doubt in his mind that Know-Nothingism, and not
hostility to his Kansas-Nebraska policy, was responsible for his
failure to command a hearing.[511]

But Douglas was mistaken, or he deceived himself, when he sought in
the same fashion to explain away the opposition which he encountered
as he traveled through the northern counties of the State. Malcontents
from both parties, but chiefly anti-slavery Whigs, Free-Soilers, and
Abolitionists, were drawing together in common hostility to the repeal
of the Missouri Compromise. Mass conventions were summoned,
irrespective of party, in various counties; and they gave no uncertain
expression to their hatred of slavery and the slave-power. These were
the counties most largely peopled by the New England immigrants.
Anti-Nebraska platforms were adopted; and fusion candidates put in
nomination for State and congressional office. In the central and
southern counties, the fusion was somewhat less complete; but finally
an anti-Nebraska State convention was held at Springfield, which
nominated a candidate for State Treasurer, the only State officer to
be elected.[512] For the first time in many years, the overthrow of
the Democratic party seemed imminent.

However much Douglas may have misjudged the causes for this fusion
movement at the outset, he was not long blind as to its implications.
On every hand there were symptoms of disaffection. Personal friends
turned their backs upon him; lifelong associates refused to follow his
lead; even the rank and file of his followers seemed infected with the
prevailing epidemic of distrust. With the instinct of a born leader of
men, Douglas saw that the salvation of himself and his party lay in
action. The _élan_ of his forces must be excited by the signal to ride
down the enemy. Sounding the charge, he plunged into the thick of the
fray. For two months, he raided the country of the enemy in northern
Illinois, and dashed from point to point in the central counties where
his loyal friends were hard pressed.[513] It was from first to last a
tempestuous conflict that exactly suited the impetuous, dashing
qualities of "the Little Giant."

In the Sixth Congressional District, Douglas found his friend Harris
fighting desperately with his back against the wall. His opponent,
Yates, was a candidate for re-election, with the full support of
anti-Nebraska men like Trumbull and Lincoln, whom the passage of the
Kansas-Nebraska bill had again drawn into politics. While the State
Fair was in progress at Springfield, both candidates strained every
nerve to win votes. Douglas was summoned to address the goodly body of
Democratic yeomen, who were keenly alive to the political, as well as
to the bucolic, opportunities which the capital afforded at this
interesting season. Douglas spoke to a large gathering in the State
House on October 3d. Next day the Fusionists put forward Lincoln to
answer him; and when Lincoln had spoken for nearly four hours, Douglas
again took the stand and held his audience for an hour and a half
longer.[514] Those were days when the staying powers of speakers were
equalled only by the patience of their hearers.

Like those earlier encounters, whose details have passed into the haze
of tradition, this lacks a trustworthy chronicler. It would seem,
however, as though the dash and daring of Douglas failed to bear down
the cool, persistent opposition of his antagonist. Douglas should have
known that the hazards in his course were reared by his own hand.
Whatever other barriers blocked his way, Nebraska-ism was the most
formidable; but this he would not concede.

A curious story has connected itself with this chance encounter of the
rivals. Alarmed at the effectiveness of Lincoln's attack, so runs the
legend, Douglas begged him not to enter the campaign, promising that
he likewise would be silent thereafter. Aside from the palpable
improbability of this "Peoria truce," it should be noted that Lincoln
accepted an invitation to speak at Lacon next day, without so much as
referring to this agreement, while Douglas continued his campaign with
unremitting energy.[515] If Douglas exhibited fear of an adversary at
this time, it is the only instance in his career.

The outcome of the elections gave the Democrats food for thought. Five
out of nine congressional districts had chosen anti-Nebraska or Fusion
candidates; the other four returned Democrats to Congress by reduced
pluralities.[516] To be sure, the Democrats had elected their
candidate for the State Treasury; but this was poor consolation, if
the legislature, as seemed probable, should pass from their control. A
successor to Senator Shields would be chosen by this body; and the
choice of an anti-Nebraska man would be as gall and wormwood to the
senior senator. In the country at large, such an outcome would surely
be interpreted as a vote of no confidence. In the light of these
events, Democrats were somewhat chastened in spirit, in spite of
apparent demonstrations of joy. Even Douglas felt called upon to
vindicate his course at the banquet given in his honor in Chicago,
November 9th. He was forced to admit--and for him it was an unwonted
admission--that "the heavens were partially overcast."

For the moment there was a disposition to drop Shields in favor of
some Democrat who was not so closely identified with the Nebraska
bill. Douglas viewed the situation with undisguised alarm. He urged
his friends, however, to stick to Shields. "The election of any other
man," he wrote truthfully, "would be deemed not only a defeat, but an
ungrateful desertion of him, when all the others who have voted with
him have been sustained."[517] It was just this fine spirit of loyalty
that made men his lifelong friends and steadfast followers through
thick and thin. "Our friends should stand by Shields," he continued,
"and throw the responsibility on the Whigs of beating him _because he
was born in Ireland_. The Nebraska fight is over, and Know-Nothingism
has taken its place as the chief issue in the future. If therefore
Shields shall be beaten it will [be] apparent to the people & to the
whole country that a gallant soldier, and a faithful public servant
has been stricken down because of the place of his birth." This was
certainly shrewd, and, measured by the tone of American public life,
not altogether reprehensible, politics. Douglas anticipated that the
Whigs would nominate Lincoln and "stick to him to the bitter end,"
while the Free-Soilers and anti-Nebraska Democrats would hold with
equal persistence to Bissell, in which case either Bissell would
ultimately get the Whig vote or there would be no election. Sounding
the trumpet call to battle, Douglas told his friends to nail Shields'
flag to the mast and never to haul it down. "We are sure to triumph in
the end on the great issue. Our policy and duty require us to stand
firm by the issues in the late election, and to make no bargains, no
alliances, no concessions to any of the _allied isms_."

When the legislature organized in January, the Democrats, to their
indescribable alarm, found the Fusion forces in control of both
houses. The election was postponed until February. Meantime Douglas
cautioned his trusty lieutenant in no event to leave Springfield for
even a day during the session.[518] On the first ballot for senator,
Shields received 41 votes; Lincoln 45; Trumbull, an anti-Nebraska
Democrat, 5; while three Democrats and five Fusionists scattered
their votes. On the seventh ballot, Shields fell out of the running,
his place being taken by Matteson. On the tenth ballot, Lincoln having
withdrawn, the Whig vote concentrated on Trumbull, who, with the aid
of his unyielding anti-Nebraska following, received the necessary 51
votes for an election. This result left many heart-burnings among both
Whigs and Democrats, for the former felt that Lincoln had been
unjustly sacrificed and the latter looked upon Trumbull as little
better than a renegade.[519]

The returns from the elections in other Northern States were equally
discouraging, from the Democratic point of view. Only seven out of
forty-two who had voted for the Kansas-Nebraska bill were re-elected.
In the next House, the Democrats would be in a minority of
seventy-five.[520] The anti-Nebraska leaders were not slow in claiming
a substantial victory. Indeed, their demonstrations of satisfaction
were so long and loud, when Congress reassembled for the short
session, that many Democrats found it difficult to accept defeat
good-naturedly. Douglas, for one, would not concede defeat, despite
the face of the returns. Men like Wade of Ohio, who enjoyed chaffing
their discomfited opponents, took every occasion to taunt the author
of the bill which had been the undoing of his party. Douglas met their
gibes by asking whether there was a single, anti-Nebraska candidate
from the free States who did not receive the Know-Nothing vote. For
every Nebraska man who had suffered defeat, two anti-Nebraska
candidates were defeated by the same causes. "The fact is, and the
gentleman knows it, that in the free States there has been an
alliance, I will not say whether holy or unholy, at the recent
elections. In that alliance they had a crucible into which they poured
Abolitionism, Maine liquor-lawism, and what there was left of Northern
Whigism, and then the Protestant feeling against the Catholic, and the
native feeling against the foreigner. All these elements were melted
down in that crucible, and the result was what was called the Fusion
party. That crucible ... was in every instance, a Know-Nothing

There was, indeed, enough of confusion in some States to give color to
such assertions. Taken collectively, however, the elections indicated
unmistakably a widespread revulsion against the administration of
President Pierce; and it was folly to contend that the Kansas-Nebraska
bill had not been the prime cause of popular resentment. Douglas was
so constituted temperamentally that he both could not, and would not,
confront the situation fairly and squarely. This want of sensitiveness
to the force of ethical convictions stirring the masses, is the most
conspicuous and regrettable aspect of his statecraft. Personally
Douglas had a high sense of honor and duty; in private affairs he was
scrupulously honest; and if at times he was shifty in politics, he
played the game with quite as much fairness as those contemporary
politicians who boasted of the integrity of their motives. He
preferred to be frank; he meant to deal justly by all men. Even so, he
failed to understand the impelling power of those moral ideals which
border on the unattainable. For the transcendentalist in politics and
philanthropy, he had only contempt. The propulsive force of an idea in
his own mind depended wholly upon its appeal to his practical
judgment. His was the philosophy of the attainable. Results that were
approximately just and fair satisfied him. He was not disposed to
sacrifice immediate advantage to future gain. His Celtic temperament
made him think rapidly; and what imagination failed to supply, quick
wit made good.

When, then, under the pressure of conditions for which he was not
responsible, he yielded to the demand for a repeal of the Missouri
Compromise, he failed to foresee that revulsion of moral sentiment
that swept over the North. It was perfectly clear to his mind, that
historically the prohibition of slavery by Federal law had had far
less practical effect than the North believed. He was convinced that
nearly all, if not all, of the great West was dedicated to freedom by
a law which transcended any human enactment. Why, then, hold to a mere
form, when the substance could be otherwise secured? Why should
Northerner affront Southerner by imperious demands, when the same end
might be attained by a compromise which would not cost either dear?
Possibly he was not unwilling to let New Mexico become slave
Territory, if the greater Northwest should become free by the
operation of the same principle. Besides, there was the very tangible
advantage of holding his party together by a sensible agreement, for
the sake of which each faction yielded something.

Douglas was not blind to the palpable truth that the masses are swayed
more by sentiment than logic: indeed, he knew well enough how to run
through the gamut of popular emotions. What did escape him was the
almost religious depth of the anti-slavery sentiment in that very
stock from which he himself had sprung. It was not a sentiment that
could be bargained away. There was much in it of the inexorable
obstinacy of the Puritan faith. Verging close upon fanaticism at
times, it swept away considerations of time and place, and overwhelmed
appeals to expediency. Even where the anti-slavery spirit did not take
on this extreme form, those whom it possessed were reluctant to yield
one jot or tittle of the substantial gains which freedom had made.

It is probable that with the growing sectionalism, North and South
would soon have been at odds over the disposition of the greater
Northwest. Sooner or later, the South must have demanded the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise, or have sought large concessions elsewhere.
But it is safe to say that no one except Douglas could have been found
in 1854, who possessed the requisite parliamentary qualities, the
personal following, the influence in all sections,--and withal, the
audacity, to propose and carry through the policy associated with the
Kansas-Nebraska bill. The responsibility for this measure rested in a
peculiar sense upon his shoulders.

It was in the course of this post-election discussion of February 23d,
that Wade insinuated that mercenary motives were the key to Douglas's
conduct. "Have the people of Illinois forgotten that injunction of
more than heavenly wisdom, that 'Where a man's treasure is, there will
his heart be also'?" To this unwarranted charge, which was current in
Abolitionist circles, Douglas made a circumstantial denial. "I am not
the owner of a slave and never have been, nor have I ever received,
and appropriated to my own use, one dollar earned by slave-labor." For
the first time, he spoke of the will of Colonel Martin and of the
property which he had bequeathed to his daughter and to her children.
With very genuine emotion, which touched even his enemies, he added,
"God forbid that I should be understood by anyone as being willing to
cast from me any responsibility that now does, or has ever attached to
any member of my family. So long as life shall last--and I shall
cherish with religious veneration the memories and virtues of the
sainted mother of my children--so long as my heart shall be filled
with parental solicitude for the happiness of those motherless
infants, I implore my enemies who so ruthlessly invade the domestic
sanctuary, to do me the favor to believe, that I have no wish, no
aspiration, to be considered purer or better than she, who was, or
they, who are, slaveholders."[522]

When the new Congress met in the fall of 1855, the anti-Nebraska men
drew closer together and gradually assumed the name "Republican."
Their first victory was the election of their candidate for the
Speakership. They were disciplined by astute leaders under the
pressure of disorders in Kansas. Before the session closed, they
developed a remarkable degree of cohesion, while the body of their
supporters in the Northern States assumed alarming proportions. The
party was not wholly, perhaps not mainly, the product of humanitarian
sentiment. The adherence of old-line Whig politicians like Seward
suggests that there was some alloy in the pure gold of Republicanism.
Such leaders were willing to make political capital out of the
breakdown of popular sovereignty in Kansas.[523] They were too shrewd
to stake the fortune of the nascent party on a bold, constructive
policy. They preferred to play a waiting game. Events in Kansas came
to their aid in ways that they could not have anticipated.

While this re-alignment of parties was in progress, the presidential
year drew on apace. It behooved the Democrats to gather their
scattered forces. The advantage of organization was theirs; but they
suffered from desertions. The morale of the party was weakened. To
check further desertions and to restore confidence, was the aim of the
party whips. No one had more at stake than Douglas. He was on trial
with his party. Conscious of his responsibilities, he threw himself
into the light skirmishing in Congress which always precedes a
presidential campaign. In this partisan warfare he was clever, but not
altogether admirable. One could wish that he had been less
uncharitable and less denunciatory; but political victories are seldom
won by unaided virtue.

From the outset his anti-Nebraska colleague was the object of his
bitterest gibes, for Trumbull typified the deserter, who was causing
such alarm in the ranks of the Democrats. "I understand that my
colleague has told the Senate," said Douglas contemptuously, "that he
comes here as a Democrat. Sir, that fact will be news to the Democracy
of Illinois. I undertake to assert there is not a Democrat in Illinois
who will not say that such a statement is a libel upon the Democracy
of that State. When he was elected he received every Abolition vote in
the Legislature of Illinois. He received every Know-Nothing vote in
the Legislature of Illinois. So far as I am advised and believe, he
received no vote except from persons allied to Abolitionism or
Know-Nothingism. He came here as the Know-Nothing-Abolition candidate,
in opposition to the united Democracy of his State, and to the
Democratic candidate."[524]

When to desertion was added association with "Black Republicans,"
Douglas found his vocabulary inadequate to express his scorn. Like
most Democrats he was sensitive on the subject of party
nomenclature.[525] "Republican" was a term which had associations with
the very father of Democracy, though the party had long since dropped
the hyphenated title. But this new, so-called Republican party had
wisely dropped the prefix "national," suggested Douglas, because "it
is a purely sectional party, with a platform which cannot cross the
Ohio river, and a creed which inevitably brings the North and South
into hostile collision." In view of the emphasis which their platform
put upon the negro, Douglas thought that consistency required the
substitution of the word "Black" for "National." The Democratic party,
on the other hand, had no sympathy with those who believed in making
the negro the social and political equal of the white man. "Our people
are a white people; our State is a white State; and we mean to
preserve the race pure, without any mixture with the negro. If you,"
turning to his Republican opponents, "wish your blood and that of the
African mingled in the same channel, we trust that you will keep at a
respectful distance from us, and not try to force that on us as one of
your domestic institutions."[526] In such wise, Douglas labored to
befog and discredit the issues for which the new party stood. The
demagogue in him overmastered the statesman.

Douglas believed himself--and with good reason--to be the probable
nominee of his party in the approaching presidential election. Several
State conventions had already declared for him. There was no other
Democrat, save President Pierce, whose name was so intimately
associated with the policy of the party as expressed in the
Kansas-Nebraska bill. Yet, while both were in favor at the South,
neither Pierce nor Douglas was likely to secure the full party vote at
the North. This consideration led to a diversion in favor of James
Buchanan, of Pennsylvania. The peculiar availability of this
well-known Democrat consisted in his having been on a foreign mission
when the Kansas-Nebraska bill was under fire. Still, Buchanan was
reported "sound" on the essential features of this measure. Before the
national convention met, a well-organized movement was under way to
secure the nomination of the Pennsylvanian.[527] Equally
well-organized and even more noisy and demonstrative was the following
of Douglas, as the delegates began to assemble at Cincinnati during
the first week in June.

The first ballot in the convention must have been a grievous
disappointment to Douglas and his friends. While Buchanan received
135 votes and Pierce 122, he could muster only 33. Only the Missouri
and Illinois delegations cast their full vote for him. Of the slave
States, only Missouri and Kentucky gave him any support. As the
balloting continued, however, both Buchanan and Douglas gained at the
expense of Pierce. After the fourteenth ballot, Pierce withdrew, and
the bulk of his support was turned over to Douglas. Cass, the fourth
candidate before the convention, had been from the first out of the
running, his highest vote being only seven. On the sixteenth ballot,
Buchanan received 168 and Douglas 122. Though Buchanan now had a
majority of the votes of the convention, he still lacked thirty of the
two-thirds required for a nomination.[528]

It was at this juncture that Douglas telegraphed to his friend
Richardson, who was chairman of the Illinois delegation and a
prominent figure in the convention, instructing him to withdraw his
name. The announcement was received with loud protestations. The
dispatch was then read: "If the withdrawal of my name will contribute
to the harmony of our party or the success of our cause, I hope you
will not hesitate to take the step ... if Mr. Pierce or Mr. Buchanan,
or any other statesman who is faithful to the great issues involved in
the contest, shall receive a majority of the convention, I earnestly
hope that all my friends will unite in insuring him two-thirds, and
then making his nomination unanimous. Let no personal considerations
disturb the harmony or endanger the triumph of our principles."[529]
Very reluctantly the supporters of Douglas obeyed their chief, and on
the seventeenth ballot, James Buchanan received the unanimous vote of
the convention. For the second time Douglas lost the nomination of his

Douglas bore himself admirably. At a mass-meeting in Washington,[530]
he made haste to pledge his support to the nominee of the convention.
His generous words of commendation of Buchanan, as a man possessing
"wisdom and nerve to enforce a firm and undivided execution, of the
laws" of the majority of the people of Kansas, were uttered without
any apparent misgivings. Prophetic they certainly were not. Douglas
could approve the platform unqualifiedly, for it was a virtual
indorsement of the principle which he had proclaimed from the
housetops for the greater part of two years. "The American Democracy,"
read the main article in the newly adopted resolutions, "recognize and
adopt the principles contained in the organic laws establishing the
Territories of Nebraska and Kansas as embodying the only sound and
safe solution of the slavery question, upon which the great national
idea of the people of this whole country can repose in its determined
conservation of the Union, and non-interference of Congress with
slavery in the Territories or in the District of Columbia."[531]
Douglas deemed it a cause for profound rejoicing that the party was
at last united upon principles which could be avowed everywhere,
North, South, East, and West. As the only national party in the
Republic, the Democracy had a great mission to perform, for in his
opinion "no less than the integrity of the Constitution, the
preservation and perpetuity of the Union," depended upon the result of
this election.[532]

No man could have been more magnanimous under defeat and so little
resentful at a personal slight. His manly conduct received favorable
comment on all sides.[533] He was still the foremost figure in the
Democratic party. To be sure, James Buchanan was the titular leader,
but he stood upon a platform erected by his rival. His letter of
acceptance left no doubt in the minds of all readers that he indorsed
the letter and the spirit of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.[534]

A fortnight later the Republican national convention met at
Philadelphia, and with great enthusiasm adopted a platform declaring
it to be the duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories "those
twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery." Even in this new
party, availability dictated the choice of a presidential candidate.
The real leaders of the party were passed over in favor of John C.
Frémont, whose romantic career was believed to be worth many votes.
Pitted against Buchanan and Frémont, was Millard Fillmore who had been
nominated months before by the American party, and who subsequently
received the indorsement of what was left of the moribund Whig

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 507: This aspect of party has been treated at greater length
in an article by the writer entitled "The Nationalizing Influence of
Party," _Tale Review_, November; 1906.]

[Footnote 508: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 264-265.]

[Footnote 509: _Ibid._, p. 271.]

[Footnote 510: _Ibid._, p. 269.]

[Footnote 511: Cutts, Constitutional and Party Questions, pp. 98-99.]

[Footnote 512: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, pp. 641-643.]

[Footnote 513: See items scattered through the Illinois _State
Register_ for these exciting weeks.]

[Footnote 514: See Illinois State _Register_, October 6, 1854, and
subsequent issues.]

[Footnote 515: Nearly every biographer of Lincoln has noted this
apparent breach of agreement on the part of Douglas, but none has
questioned the accuracy of the story, though the unimaginative Lamon
betrays some misgivings, as he records Lincoln's course after the
"Peoria truce." See Lamon, Lincoln, p. 358. The statement of Irwin (in
Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 329) does not seem credible, in the
light of all the attendant circumstances.]

[Footnote 516: _Whig Almanac_ 1855.]

[Footnote 517: MS. Letter, Douglas to Lanphier, December 18, 1854.]

[Footnote 518: MS. Letter, Douglas to Lanphier, December 18, 1854.]

[Footnote 519: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, pp. 689-690;
Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 275-276.]

[Footnote 520: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 67.]

[Footnote 521: _Globe_, 33 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 216.]

[Footnote 522: Globe, 33 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 330.]

[Footnote 523: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 97-98,
130, 196.]

[Footnote 524: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 655.]

[Footnote 525: _Ibid._, App., p. 391.]

[Footnote 526: _Globe,_34 Cong., 1 Sess., App. p. 392.]

[Footnote 527: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 169-171.]

[Footnote 528: Stanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 265. Douglas
received 73 votes from the slave States and Buchanan 47; Buchanan
received 28 votes in New England, Douglas 13; Buchanan received 41
votes from the Northwest, Douglas 19. The loss of Buchanan in the
South was more than made good by his votes from the Middle Atlantic

[Footnote 529: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 448-449; Proceedings of the
National Democratic Convention, 1856.]

[Footnote 530: Washington _Union_, June 7, 1856.]

[Footnote 531: Stanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 267.]

[Footnote 532: Washington _Union_, June 7, 1856.]

[Footnote 533: Correspondent to Cincinnati _Enquirer_, June 12, 1856.]

[Footnote 534: The letter read, "This legislation is founded upon
principles as ancient as free government itself, and in accordance
with them has simply declared that the people of a Territory like
those of a State, shall decide for themselves whether slavery shall or
shall not exist within their limits. The Kansas-Nebraska Act does no
more than give the force of law to this elementary principle of
self-government, declaring it to be 'the true intent and meaning of
this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor 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 Constitution of the United States.' How vain and
illusory would any other principle prove in practice in regard to the
Territories," etc. Cincinnati _Enquirer_, June 22, 1856.]

[Footnote 535: Stanwood, History of the Presidency, pp. 269-274.]



The author of the Kansas-Nebraska bill doubtless anticipated a gradual
and natural occupation of the new Territories by settlers like those
home-seekers who had taken up government lands in Iowa and other
States of the Northwest. In the course of time, it was to be expected,
such communities would form their own social and political
institutions, and so determine whether they would permit or forbid
slave-labor. By that rapid, and yet on the whole strangely
conservative, American process the people of the Territories would
become politically self-conscious and ready for statehood. Not all at
once, but gradually, a politically self-sufficient entity would come
into being. Such had been the history of American colonization; it
seemed the part of wise statesmanship to follow the trend of that

Theoretically popular sovereignty, as applied in the Kansas-Nebraska
Act, was not an advance over the doctrine of Cass and Dickinson. It
professed to be the same which had governed Congress in organizing
Utah and New Mexico. Nevertheless, popular sovereignty had an
artificial quality which squatter sovereignty lacked. The relation
between Congress and the people of the Territories, in the matter of
slavery, was now to be determined not so much by actual conditions as
by an abstract principle. Federal policy was indoctrinated.

There was, too, this vital difference between squatter sovereignty in
Utah and New Mexico and popular sovereignty in Nebraska and Kansas:
the former were at least partially inhabited and enjoyed some degree
of social and political order; the latter were practically
uninhabited. It was one thing to grant control over all domestic
concerns to a population _in esse_, and another and quite different
thing to grant control to a people _in posse_. In the Kansas-Nebraska
Act hypothetical communities were endowed with the capacity of
self-government, and told to decide for themselves a question which
would become a burning issue the very moment that the first settlers
set foot in the Territories. Congress attempted thus to solve an
equation without a single known quantity.

Moreover, slavery was no longer a matter of local concern. Doubtless
it was once so regarded; but the time had passed when the conscience
of the North would acquiesce in a _laissez faire_ policy. By force of
circumstances slavery had become a national issue. Ardent haters of
the institution were not willing that its extension or restriction
should be left to a fraction of the nation, artificially organized as
a Territory. The Kansas-Nebraska Act prejudiced the minds of many
against the doctrine, however sound in theory it may have seemed, by
unsettling what the North regarded as its vested right in the free
territory north of the line of the Missouri Compromise. The Act made
the political atmosphere electric. The conditions for obtaining a
calm, dispassionate judgment on the domestic concern of chief
interest, were altogether lacking.

It was everywhere conceded that Nebraska would be a free Territory.
The eyes of the nation were focused upon Kansas, which was from the
first debatable ground. A rush of settlers from the Northwest joined
by pioneers from Kentucky and Missouri followed the opening up of the
new lands. As Douglas had foretold, the tide of immigration held back
by Indian treaties now poured in. The characteristic features of
American colonization seemed about to repeat themselves. So far the
movement of population was for the most part spontaneous. Land-hunger,
not the political destiny of the West, drove men to locate their
claims on the Kansas and the Missouri. By midsummer colonists of a
somewhat different stripe appeared. Sent out under the auspices of the
Emigrant Aid Company, they were to win Kansas for freedom at the same
time that they subdued the wilderness. It was a species of assisted
emigration which was new in the history of American colonization,
outside the annals of missionary effort. The chief promoter of this
enterprise was a thrifty, Massachusetts Yankee, who saw no reason why
crusading and business should not go hand in hand. Kansas might be
wrested from the slave-power at the same time that returns on invested
funds were secured.

The effect of these developments upon the aggressive pro-slavery
people of Missouri is not easy to describe. Hitherto they had assumed
that Kansas would become a slave Territory in the natural order of
events. This was the prevailing Southern opinion. At once the people
of western Missouri were put upon the defensive. Blue lodges were
formed for the purpose of carrying slavery into Kansas. Appeals were
circulated in the slave-holding States for colonists and funds.
Passions were inflamed by rumors which grew as they stalked abroad.
The peaceful occupation of Kansas was at an end. Popular sovereignty
was to be tested under abnormal conditions.

When the election of territorial delegates to Congress occurred, in
the late fall, a fatal defect in the organic law was disclosed, to
which many of the untoward incidents of succeeding months may be
ascribed. The territorial act conferred the right of voting at the
first elections upon all free, white, male inhabitants, twenty-one
years of age and actually resident in the Territory.[536] Here was an
unfortunate ambiguity. What was actual residence? Every other act
organizing a territorial government was definite on this point,
permitting only those to vote who were living in the proposed
Territory, at the time of the passage of the act. The omission in the
case of Kansas and Nebraska is easily accounted for. Neither had legal
residents when the act was passed. Indeed, this defect bears witness
to the fact that Congress was legislating, not for actual, but for
hypothetical communities. The consequences were far-reaching, for at
the very first election, it was charged that frauds were practiced by
bands of Missourians, who had crossed the border only to aid the
pro-slavery cause. Not much was made of these charges, as no
particular interest attached to the election.

Far different was the election of members of the territorial
legislature in the following spring. On all hands it was agreed that
this legislature would determine whether Kansas should be slave or
free soil. It was regrettable that Governor Reeder postponed the
taking of the census until February, since by mid-winter many
settlers, who had staked their claims, returned home for the cold
season, intending to return with their families in the early spring.
This again was a characteristic feature of frontier history.[537] In
March, the governor issued his proclamation of election, giving only
three weeks' notice. Of those who had returned home, only residents of
Missouri and Iowa were able to participate in the election of March
30th, by hastily recrossing into Kansas. Governor Reeder did his best
to guard against fraud. In his instructions to the judges of election,
he warned them that a voter must be "an actual resident"; that is,
"must have commenced an active inhabitancy, which he actually intends
to continue permanently, and must have made the Territory his dwelling
place to the exclusion of any other home."[538] Still, it was not to
be expected that _bona fide_ residents could be easily ascertained in
communities which had sprung up like mushrooms. A hastily constructed
shack served all the purposes of the would-be voter; and, in last
analysis, judges of elections had to rest content with declarations of
intentions. Those who crossed into Kansas after the governor's
proclamation and endeavored to continue actual inhabitancy, were with
difficulty distinguished from those who now crossed for the first
time, under a similar pretext. As Douglas subsequently contended with
much force, the number of votes cast in excess of the census returns
did not in itself prove wholesale fraud.[539]

Under such liability to deception and misjudgment, the territorial
authorities held the election which was likely to determine the status
of Kansas with respect to slavery. Both parties were playing for great
stakes; passion and violence were the almost inevitable outcome. Both
parties contained desperadoes, who invariably come to the surface in
the general mixing which occurs on the frontier. Both parties committed
frauds at the polls. But the most serious gravamina have been laid at
the door of those Blue Lodges of Missouri which deliberately sought to
secure the election of pro-slavery candidates by fair means or foul.
The people of western Missouri had come to believe that the fate of
slavery in their own Commonwealth hinged upon the future of Kansas. It
was commonly believed that after Kansas, Missouri would be
abolitionized. It was, therefore, with the fierce, unreasoning energy
of defenders of their own institutions, that Blue Lodges organized
their crusade for Kansas.[540] On election day armed bands of
Missourians crossed into Kansas and polled a heavy vote for the
pro-slavery candidates, in the teeth of indignant remonstrances.[541]

The further history of popular sovereignty in Kansas must be lightly
touched upon, for it is the reflex action in the halls of Congress
that interests the student of Douglas's career. Twenty-eight of the
thirty-nine members of the first territorial legislature were men of
pronounced pro-slavery views; eleven were anti-slavery candidates. In
seven districts, where protests had been filed, the governor ordered
new elections. Three of those first elected were returned, six were
new men of anti-slavery proclivities. But when the legislature met,
these new elections were set aside and I the first elections were
declared valid.[542]

In complete control of the legislature, the pro-slavery party
proceeded to write slavery into the law of the Territory. In their
eagerness to establish slavery permanently, these legislative Hotspurs
quite overshot the mark, creating offenses and affixing penalties of
doubtful constitutionality.[543] Meanwhile the census of February
reported but one hundred ninety-two slaves in a total population of
eight thousand six hundred.[544] Those who had migrated from the
South, were not as a rule of the slave-holding class. Those who
possessed slaves shrank from risking their property in Kansas, until
its future were settled.[545] Eventually, the climate was to prove an
even greater obstacle to the transplantation of the slave-labor system
into Kansas.

Foiled in their hope of winning the territorial legislature, the
free-State settlers in Kansas resolved upon a hazardous course.
Believing the legislature an illegal body, they called a convention to
draft a constitution with which they proposed to apply for admission
to the Union as a free State. Robinson, the leader of the free-State
party, was wise in such matters by reason of his experience in
California. Reeder, who had been displaced as governor and had gone
over to the opposition, lent his aid to the project; and
ex-Congressman Lane, formerly of Indiana, gave liberally of his
vehement energy to the cause. After successive conventions in which
the various free-State elements were worked into a fairly consistent
mixture, the Topeka convention launched a constitution and a
free-State government. Unofficially the supporters of the new
government took measures for its defense. In the following spring,
Governor Robinson sent his first message to the State legislature in
session at Topeka; and Reeder and Lane were chosen senators for the
inchoate Commonwealth.[546]

Meantime Governor Shannon had succeeded Reeder as executive of the
territorial government at Shawnee Mission. The aspect of affairs was
ominous. Popular sovereignty had ended in a dangerous dualism. Two
governments confronted each other in bitter hostility. There were
untamed individuals in either camp, who were not averse to a decision
by wager of battle.[547]

Such was the situation in Kansas, when Douglas reached Washington in
February, after a protracted illness.[548] The President had already
discussed the Kansas imbroglio in a special message; but the
Democratic majority in the Senate showed some reluctance to follow the
lead of the administration. From the Democrats in the House not much
could be expected, because of the strength of the Republicans. The
party awaited its leader. Upon his appearance, all matters relating to
Kansas were referred to the Committee on Territories. The situation
called for unusual qualities of leadership. How would the author of
the Kansas-Nebraska Act face the palpable breakdown of his policy?

With his customary dispatch, Douglas reported on the 12th of
March.[549] The majority report consumed two hours in the reading;
Senator Collamer stated the position of the minority in half the
time.[550] Evidently the chairman was aware where the burden of proof
lay. Douglas took substantially the same ground as that taken by the
President in his special message, but he discussed the issues boldly
in his own vigorous way. No one doubted that he had reached his
conclusions independently.

The report began with a constitutional argument in defense of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act. As a contribution to the development of the
doctrine of popular sovereignty, the opening paragraphs deserve more
than passing notice. The distinct advance in Douglas's thought
consisted in this: that he explicitly refused to derive the power to
organize Territories from that provision of the Constitution which
gave Congress "power to dispose of and make all needful rules and
regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to
the United States." The word "territory" here was used in its
geographical sense to designate the public domain, not to indicate a
political community. Rather was the power to be derived from the
authority of Congress to adopt necessary and proper means to admit new
States into the Union. But beyond the necessary and proper
organization of a territorial government with reference to ultimate
statehood, Congress might not go. Clearly, then, Congress might not
impose conditions and restrictions upon a Territory which would
prevent its entering the Union on an equality with the other States.
From the formation of the Union, each State had been left free to
decide the question of slavery for itself. Congress, therefore, might
not decide the question for prospective States. Recognizing this, the
framers of the Kansas-Nebraska Act had relegated the discussion of the
slavery question to the people, who were to form a territorial
government under cover of the organic act.[551]

This was an ingenious argument. It was in accord with the utterances
of some of the weightiest intellects in our constitutional history.
But it was not in accord with precedent. There was hardly a
territorial act that had emerged from Douglas's committee room, which
had not imposed restrictions not binding on the older Commonwealths.

Having given thus a constitutional sanction to the principle of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act, the report unhesitatingly denounced that "vast
moneyed corporation," created for the purpose of controlling the
domestic institutions of a distinct political community fifteen
hundred miles away.[552] This was as flagrant an act of intervention
as though France or England had interfered for a similar purpose in
Cuba, for "in respect to everything which affects its domestic policy
and internal concerns, each State stands in the relation of a foreign
power to every other State." The obvious retort to this extraordinary
assertion was, that Kansas was only a Territory, and not a State.
Douglas then made this "mammoth moneyed corporation" the scapegoat for
all that had happened in Kansas. The Missouri Blue Lodges were
defensive organizations, called into existence by the fear that the
"abolitionizing" of Kansas was the prelude to a warfare upon slavery
in Missouri. The violence and bloodshed in Kansas were "the natural
and inevitable consequences of such extraordinary systems of

Such _ex post facto_ assertions did not mend matters in Kansas,
however much they may have relieved the author of the report. It
remained to deal with the existing situation. The report took the
ground that the legislature of Kansas was a legal body and had been so
recognized by Governor Reeder. Neither the alleged irregularity of the
elections, nor other objections, could diminish its legislative
authority. Pro-tests against the election returns had been filed in
only seven out of eighteen districts. Ten out of thirteen councilmen,
and seventeen out of twenty-six representatives, held their seats by
virtue of the governor's certificate. Even if it were assumed that the
second elections in the seven districts were wrongly invalidated by
the legislature, its action was still the action of a lawful
legislature, possessing in either house a quorum of duly certificated
members. This was a lawyer's plea. Technically it was unanswerable.

Having taken this position, Douglas very properly refused to pass
judgment on the laws of the legislature. By the very terms of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act, Congress had confided the power to enact local
laws to the people of the Territories. If the validity of these laws
should be doubted, it was for the courts of justice and not for
Congress to decide the question.[554]

Throughout the report, the question was not once raised, whether the
legislature really reflected the sentiment of a majority of the
settlers of Kansas. Douglas assumed that it was truly representative.
This attitude is not surprising, when one recalls his predilections
and the conflict of evidence on essential points in the controversy.
Nevertheless, this attitude was unfortunate, for it made him unfair
toward the free-State settlers, with whom by temper and training he
had far more in common than with the Missouri emigrants. Could he have
cut himself loose from his bias, he would have recognized the
free-State men as the really trustworthy builders of a Commonwealth.
But having taken his stand on the legality of the territorial
legislature, he persisted in regarding the free-State movement as a
seditious combination to subvert the territorial government
established by Congress. To the free-State men he would not accord any
inherent, sovereign right to annul the laws and resist the authority
of the territorial government.[555] The right of self-government was
derived only from the Constitution through the organic act passed by
Congress. And then he used that expression which was used with telling
effect against the theory of popular sovereignty: "The sovereignty of
a Territory remains in abeyance, suspended in the United States, in
trust for the people, until they shall be admitted into the Union as a
State."[556] If this was true, then popular sovereignty after all
meant nothing more than local self-government, the measure of which
was to be determined by Congress. If Congress left slavery to local
determination, it was only for expediency's sake, and not by reason of
any constitutional obligation.

Douglas found a vindication of his Kansas-Nebraska Act in the peaceful
history of Nebraska, "to which the emigrant aid societies did not
extend their operations, and into which the stream of emigration was
permitted to flow in its usual and natural channels."[557] He fixed
the ultimate responsibility for the disorders in Kansas upon those who
opposed the principle of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and who, "failing to
accomplish their purpose in the halls of Congress, and under the
authority of the Constitution, immediately resorted in their
respective States to unusual and extraordinary means to control the
political destinies and shape the domestic institutions of Kansas, in
defiance of the wishes and regardless of the rights of the people of
that Territory as guaranteed by their organic law."[558]

A practical recommendation accompanied the report. It was proposed to
authorize the territorial legislature to provide for a constitutional
convention to frame a State constitution, as soon as a census should
indicate that there were ninety-three thousand four hundred and twenty
inhabitants.[559] This bill was in substantial accord with the
President's recommendations.

The minority report was equally positive as to the cause of the
trouble in Kansas and the proper remedy. "Repeal the act of 1854,
organize Kansas anew as a free Territory and all will be put right."
But if Congress was bent on continuing the experiment, then the
Territory must be reorganized with proper safeguards against illegal
voting. The only alternative was to admit the Territory as a State
with its free constitution.

The issue could not have been more sharply drawn. Popular sovereignty
as applied in the Kansas-Nebraska Act was put upon the defensive.
Republican senators made haste to press their advantage. Sumner
declared that the true issue was smothered in the majority report, but
stood forth as a pillar of fire in the report of the minority.
Trumbull forced the attack, while Douglas was absent, without waiting
for the printing of the reports. It needed only this apparent
discourtesy to bring Douglas into the arena. An unseemly wrangle
between the Illinois senators followed, in the course of which Douglas
challenged his colleague to resign and stand with him for re-election
before the next session of the legislature.[560] Trumbull wisely
declined to accept the risk.

On the 20th of March, Douglas addressed the Senate in reply to
Trumbull.[561] Nothing that he said shed any new light on the
controversy. He had not changed his angle of vision. He had only the
old arguments with which to combat the assertion that "Kansas had been
conquered and a legislature imposed by violence." But the speech
differed from the report, just as living speech must differ from the
printed page. Every assertion was pointed by his vigorous intonations;
every argument was accentuated by his forceful personality. The report
was a lawyer's brief; the speech was the flexible utterance of an
accomplished debater, bent upon a personal as well as an argumentative

Even hostile critics were forced to yield to a certain admiration for
"the Little Giant." The author of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ watched him from
her seat in the Senate gallery, with intense interest; and though
writing for readers, who like herself hated the man for his supposed
servility to the South, she said with unwonted objectivity, "This
Douglas is the very ideal of vitality. Short, broad, and thick-set,
every inch of him has its own alertness and motion. He has a good head
and face, thick black hair, heavy black brows and a keen eye. His
figure would be an unfortunate one were it not for the animation which
constantly pervades it; as it is, it rather gives poignancy to his
peculiar appearance; he has a small, handsome hand, moreover, and a
graceful as well as forcible mode of using it.... He has two
requisites of a debater--a melodious voice and a clear, sharply
defined enunciation.... His forte in debating is his power of
mystifying the point. With the most off-hand assured airs in the
world, and a certain appearance of honest superiority, like one who
has a regard for you and wishes to set you right on one or two little
matters, he proceeds to set up some point which is _not_ that in
question, but only a family connection of it, and this point he
attacks with the very best of logic and language; he charges upon it
horse and foot, runs it down, tramples it in the dust, and then turns
upon you with--'Sir, there is your argument! Did not I tell you so?
You see it is all stuff;' and if you have allowed yourself to be so
dazzled by his quickness as to forget that the routed point is not,
after all, the one in question, you suppose all is over with it.
Moreover, he contrives to mingle up so many stinging allusions to so
many piquant personalities that by the time he has done his
mystification a dozen others are ready and burning to spring on their
feet to repel some direct or indirect attack, all equally wide of the

Douglas paid dearly for some of these personal shots. He had never
forgiven Sumner for his share in "the Appeal of the Independent
Democrats." He lost no opportunity to attribute unworthy motives to
this man, whose radical views on slavery he never could comprehend.
More than once he insinuated that the Senator from Massachusetts and
other Black Republicans were fabricating testimony relating to Kansas
for political purposes. When Sumner, many weeks later, rose to address
the Senate on "the Crime against Kansas," he labored under the double
weight of personal wrongs and the wrongs of a people. The veteran Cass
pronounced his speech "the most un-American and unpatriotic that ever
grated on the ears of the members of this high body."[563] Even
Sumner's friends listened to him with surprise and regret. Of Douglas
he had this to say:

"As the Senator from South Carolina is the Don Quixote, the Senator
from Illinois is the squire of slavery, its very Sancho Panza, ready
to do all its humiliating offices. This Senator in his labored
address, vindicating his labored report--piling one mass of elaborate
error upon another mass--constrained himself, as you will remember, to
unfamiliar decencies of speech.... I will not stop to repel the
imputations which he cast upon myself.... Standing on this floor, the
Senator issued his rescript, requiring submission to the Usurped Power
of Kansas; and this was accompanied by a manner--all his own--such as
befits the tyrannical threat.... He is bold. He shrinks from nothing.
Like Danton, he may cry, _'l'audace! l'audace! tonjours l'audace!'_
but even his audacity cannot compass this work. The Senator copies the
British officer, who, with boastful swagger, said that with the hilt
of his sword he would cram the 'stamps' down the throats of the
American people, and he will meet a similar failure."[564]

The retort of Douglas was not calculated to turn away wrath. He called
attention to the fact that these gross insults were not uttered in the
heat of indignation, but "conned over, written with cool, deliberate
malignity, repeated from night to night in order to catch the
appropriate grace." He ridiculed the excessive self-esteem of Sumner
in words that moved the Senate to laughter; and then completed his
vindictive assault by charging Sumner with perfidy. Had he not sworn
to obey the Constitution, and then, forsooth, refused to support the
enforcement of the Fugitive Slave law?[565]

Sumner replied in a passion, "Let the Senator remember hereafter that
the bowie-knife and bludgeon are not the proper emblems of senatorial
debate. Let him remember that the swagger of Bob Acres and the
ferocity of the Malay cannot add dignity to this body.... No person
with the upright form of a man can be allowed, without violation of
all decency, to switch out from his tongue the perpetual stench of
offensive personality. Sir, that is not a proper weapon of debate, at
least, on this floor. The noisome, squat, and nameless animal, to
which I refer, is not a proper model for an American Senator. Will the
Senator from Illinois take notice?" And upon Douglas's unworthy
retort that he certainly would not imitate the Senator in that
capacity, Stunner said insultingly, "Mr. President, again the Senator
has switched his tongue, and again he fills the Senate with its
offensive odor."[566]

Two days later Brooks made his assault on Sumner in the Senate
chamber. Sumner's recollection was, that on recovering consciousness,
he recognized among those about him, but offering no assistance,
Senators Douglas and Toombs, and between them, his assailant.[567] It
was easy for ill-disposed persons to draw unfortunate inferences from
this sick-bed testimony. Douglas felt that an explanation was expected
from him. In a frank, explicit statement he told his colleagues that
he was in the reception room of the Senate when the assault occurred.
Hearing what was happening, he rose immediately to his feet to enter
the chamber and put an end to the affray. But, on second thought, he
realized that his motives would be misconstrued if he entered the
hall. When the affair was over, he went in with the crowd. He was not
near Brooks at any time, and he was not with Senator Toombs, except
perhaps as he passed him on leaving the chamber. He did not know that
any attack upon Mr. Sumner was purposed "then or at any other time,
here or at any other place."[568] Still, it is to be regretted that
Douglas did not act on his first, manly instincts and do all that lay
in his power to end this brutal assault, regardless of possible

Disgraceful as these scenes in Congress were, they were less ominous
than events which were passing in Kansas. Clashes between pro-slavery
and free-State settlers had all but resulted in civil war in the
preceding fall. An unusually severe winter had followed, which not
only cooled the passions of all for a while, but convinced many a
slave-holder of the futility of introducing African slaves into a
climate, where on occasion the mercury would freeze in the
thermometer. In the spring hostilities were resumed. Under cover of
executing certain writs in Lawrence, Sheriff Jones and a posse of
ruffians took revenge upon that stronghold of the Emigrant Aid
Society, by destroying the newspaper offices, burning some public
buildings, and pillaging the town. Three days after the sack of
Lawrence, and just two days after the assault upon Sumner in the
Senate, John Brown and his sons executed the decree of Almighty God,
by slaying in cold blood five pro-slavery settlers on the
Pottawatomie. Civil war had begun in Kansas.[569]

If remedial measures for Kansas were needed at the beginning of
Congress, much more were they needed now. The bill reported by Douglas
for the eventual admission of Kansas had commended itself neither to
the leaders, nor to the rank and file, of the party. There was a
general disposition to await the outcome of the national party
conventions, before legislating for Kansas. Douglas made repeated
efforts to expedite his bill, but his failure to secure the Democratic
nomination seemed to weaken his leadership. Pressure from without
finally spurred the Democratic members of Congress to action. The
enthusiasm of the Republicans in convention and their confident
expectation of carrying many States at the North, warned the
Democrats that they must make some effort to allay the disturbances in
Kansas. The initiative was taken by Senator Toombs, who drafted a bill
conceding far more to Northern sentiment than any yet proposed. It
provided that, after a census had been taken, delegates to a
constitutional convention should be chosen on the date of the
presidential election in November. Five competent persons, appointed
by the President with the consent of the Senate, were to supervise the
census and the subsequent registration of voters. The convention thus
chosen was to assemble in December to frame a State constitution and

The Toombs bill, with several others, and with numerous amendments,
was referred to the Committee on Territories. Frequent conferences
followed at Douglas's residence, in which the recognized leaders of
the party participated.[571] It was decided to support the Toombs bill
in a slightly amended form and to make a party measure of it.[572]
Prudence warned against attempting to elect Buchanan on a policy of
merely negative resistance to the Topeka movement.[573] The Republican
members of Congress were to be forced to make a show of hands on a
measure which promised substantial relief to the people of Kansas.

In his report of June 30th, Douglas discussed the various measures
that had been proposed by Whigs and Republicans, but found the Toombs
bill best adapted to "insure a fair and impartial decision of the
questions at issue in Kansas, in accordance with the wishes of the
_bona fide_ inhabitants." A single paragraph from this report ought to
have convinced those who subsequently doubted the sincerity of
Douglas's course, that he was partner to no plots against the free
expression of public opinion in the Territory. "In the opinion of your
committee, whenever a constitution shall be formed in any Territory,
preparatory to its admission into the Union as a State, justice, the
genius of our institutions, the whole theory of our republican system
imperatively demand that the voice of the people shall be fairly
expressed, and their will embodied in that fundamental law, without
fraud or violence, or intimidation, or any other improper or unlawful
influence, and subject to no other restrictions than those imposed by
the Constitution of the United States."[574]

The Toombs bill caused Republicans grave misgivings, even while they
conceded its ostensible liberality. Could an administration that had
condoned the frauds already practiced in Kansas be trusted to appoint
disinterested commissioners? Would a census of the present population
give a majority in the proposed convention to the free-State party in
Kansas? Everyone knew that many free-State people had been driven away
by the disorders. Douglas endeavored to reassure his opponents on
these points; but his words carried no weight on the other side of the
chamber. No better evidence of his good faith in the matter, however,
could have been asked than he offered, by an amendment which extended
the right of voting at the elections to all who had been _bona fide_
residents and voters, but who had absented themselves from the
Territory, provided they should return before October 1st.[575] If,
as Republicans asserted, many more free-State settlers than
pro-slavery squatters had been driven out, then here was a fair
concession. But what they wanted was not merely an equal chance for
freedom in Kansas, but precedence. To this end they were ready even to
admit Kansas under the Topeka constitution, which, by the most
favorable construction, was the work of a faction.[576]

It was afterwards alleged that Douglas had wittingly suppressed a
clause in the original Toombs bill, which provided for a submission of
the constitution to a popular vote. The circumstances were such as to
make the charge plausible, and Douglas, in his endeavor to clear
himself, made hasty and unqualified statements which were manifestly
incorrect. In his own bill for the admission of Kansas, Douglas
referred explicitly to "the election for the adoption of the
Constitution."[577] The wording of the clause indicates that he
regarded the popular ratification of the constitution to be a matter
of course. The original Toombs bill had also referred explicitly to a
ratification of the constitution by the people;[578] but when it was
reported from Douglas's committee in an amended form, it had been
stripped of this provision. Trumbull noted at the time that this
amended bill made no provision for the submission of the constitution
to the vote of the people and deplored the omission, though he
supposed, as did most men, that such a ratification would be
necessary.[579] Subsequently he accused Douglas not only of having
intentionally omitted the referendum clause, but of having prevented a
popular vote, by adding the clause, "and until the complete execution
of this Act, no other election shall be held in said Territory."[580]

Douglas cleared himself from the latter charge, by pointing out that
this clause had been struck out upon his own motion, and replaced by
the clause which read, "all other elections in said Territory are
hereby postponed until such time as said convention shall
appoint."[581] As to the other charge, Douglas said in 1857, that he
knew the Toombs bill was silent on the matter of submission, but he
took the fair construction to be that powers not delegated were
reserved, and that of course the constitution would be submitted to
the people. "That I was a party, either by private conferences at my
house or otherwise, to a plan to force a constitution on the people of
Kansas without submission, is not true."[582]

Still, there was the ugly fact that the Toombs bill had gone to his
committee with the clause, and had emerged shorn of it. Toombs himself
threw some light on the matter by stating that the clause had been
stricken out because there was no provision for a second election, and
therefore no proper safeguards for such a popular vote.[583] The
probability is that Douglas, and in fact most men, deemed it
sufficient at that time to provide a fair opportunity for the
election of a convention.[584] When Trumbull preferred his charges in
detail in the campaign of 1858, Douglas at first flatly denied that
there was a submission clause in the original Toombs bill. Both
Trumbull and Lincoln then convicted Douglas of error, and thus put him
in the light of one who had committed an offense and had sought to
save himself by prevaricating.

The Toombs bill passed the Senate over the impotent Republican
opposition; but in the House it encountered a hostile majority which
would not so much as consider a proposition emanating from Democratic
sources.[585] Douglas charged the Republicans with the deliberate wish
and intent to keep the Kansas issue alive. "All these gentlemen want,"
he declared, "is to get up murder and bloodshed in Kansas for
political effect. They do not mean that there shall be peace until
after the presidential election.... Their capital for the presidential
election is blood. We may as well talk plainly. An angel from Heaven
could not write a bill to restore peace in Kansas that would be
acceptable to the Abolition Republican party previous to the
presidential election."[586]

"Bleeding Kansas" was, indeed, a most effective campaign cry. Before
Congress adjourned, the Republicans had found other campaign material
in the majority report of the Kansas investigating committee. The
Democrats issued the minority report as a counter-blast, and also
circulated three hundred thousand copies of Douglas's 12th of March
report, which was held to be campaign material of the first order.
Douglas himself paid for one-third of these out of his own
pocket.[587] No one could accuse him of sulking in his tent. Whatever
personal pique he may have felt at losing the nomination, he was
thoroughly loyal to his party. He gave unsparingly of his time and
strength to the cause of Democracy, speaking most effectively in the
doubtful States. And when Pennsylvania became the pivotal State, as
election day drew near, Douglas gave liberally to the campaign fund
which his friend Forney was collecting to carry the State for

Illinois, too, was now reckoned as a doubtful State. Douglas had
forced the issues clearly to the fore by pressing the nomination of
Richardson for governor.[589] Next to himself, there was no man in the
State so closely identified with Kansas-Nebraska legislation. The
anti-Nebraska forces accepted the gage of battle by nominating
Bissell, a conspicuous figure among those Democrats who could not
sanction the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Only the nomination of
a Know-Nothing candidate complicated the issues which were thus drawn.
Shortly before the October State elections, Douglas saw that he had
committed a tactical blunder. Richardson was doomed to defeat. "Would
it not be well," wrote Douglas to James W. Sheahan, who had come from
Washington to edit the Chicago _Times_, "to prepare the minds of your
readers for losing the State elections on the 14th of October?
Buchanan's friends expect to lose it then, but carry the State by
20,000 in November. We may have to fight against wind and tide after
the 14th. Hence our friends ought to be prepared for the worst. We
must carry Illinois at all hazards and in any event."[590]

This forecast proved to be correct. Richardson, with all that he
represented, went down to defeat. In November Buchanan carried the
State by a narrow margin, the total Democratic vote falling far behind
the combined vote for Frémont and Fillmore.[591] The political
complexion of Illinois had changed. It behooved the senior senator to
take notice.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 536: Section 23, United States Statutes at Large, X, p.

[Footnote 537: See remarks of Douglas, _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess.,
App., pp. 360-361.]

[Footnote 538: Howard Report, pp. 108-109.]

[Footnote 539: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 360-361.]

[Footnote 540: Spring, Kansas, pp. 39-41.]

[Footnote 541: _Ibid._, pp. 43-49; Rhodes, History of the United
States, II, pp. 81-82.]

[Footnote 542: Spring, Kansas, pp. 53-56.]

[Footnote 543: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 99.]

[Footnote 544: _Ibid._, p. 100.]

[Footnote 545: _Ibid._, p. 101.]

[Footnote 546: Spring, Kansas, Chapter V; Rhodes, II, pp. 102-103.]

[Footnote 547: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 103.]

[Footnote 548: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 286.]

[Footnote 549: Senate Reports, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 34.]

[Footnote 550: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 639.]

[Footnote 551: Senate Report, No. 34, p. 4.]

[Footnote 552: _Ibid._, p. 7.]

[Footnote 553: Senate Report, No. 34, pp. 7-9.]

[Footnote 554: _Ibid._, p. 23.]

[Footnote 555: Senate Report, No. 34, p. 34.]

[Footnote 556: _Ibid._, p. 39.]

[Footnote 557: Senate Report, No. 34, p. 40.]

[Footnote 558: _Ibid._, pp. 39-40.]

[Footnote 559: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 693.]

[Footnote 560: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 657.]

[Footnote 561: _Ibid._, App., pp. 280 ff.]

[Footnote 562: New York _Independent_, May 1, 1856; quoted by Rhodes
II, p. 128.]

[Footnote 563: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App. p. 544.]

[Footnote 564: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 531.]

[Footnote 565: _Ibid._, p. 545.]

[Footnote 566: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 547.]

[Footnote 567: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 148.]

[Footnote 568: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1305.]

[Footnote 569: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 103-106;

[Footnote 570: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1439.]

[Footnote 571: _Ibid._, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 22.]

[Footnote 572: _Ibid._, p. 119.]

[Footnote 573: _Ibid._, p. 119.]

[Footnote 574: Senate Report, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., No. 198.]

[Footnote 575: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 795.]

[Footnote 576: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 194-195.]

[Footnote 577: Senate Bill, No. 172, Section 3.]

[Footnote 578: Senate Bill, No. 356, Section 13.]

[Footnote 579: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 779.]

[Footnote 580: Speech at Alton, Illinois, 1858.]

[Footnote 581: Political Debates between Lincoln and Douglas, pp. 161

[Footnote 582: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 22.]

[Footnote 583: _Ibid._, App., p. 127. Toombs also stated that the
submission clause had been put in his bill in the first place by
accident, and that it had been stricken from the bill at his

[Footnote 584: The submission of State constitutions to a popular vote
had not then become a general practice.]

[Footnote 585: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 195.]

[Footnote 586: _Globe_, 34 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 844.]

[Footnote 587: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 21.]

[Footnote 588: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 443.]

[Footnote 589: Davidson and Stuvé, History of Illinois, p. 650.]

[Footnote 590: MS. Letter, Douglas to Sheahan, October 6, 1856.]

[Footnote 591: _Tribune Almanac_, 1857. The vote was as follows:

    Buchanan      105,348
    Frémont        96,189
    Fillmore       37,444





Vast changes had passed over Illinois since Douglas set foot on its
soil, a penniless boy with his fortune to make. The frontier had been
pushed back far beyond the northern boundary of the State; the Indians
had disappeared; and the great military tract had been occupied by a
thrifty, enterprising people of the same stock from which Douglas
sprang. In 1833, the center of political gravity lay far south of the
geographical center of the State; by 1856, the northern counties had
already established a political equipoise. The great city on Lake
Michigan, a lusty young giant, was yearly becoming more conscious of
its commercial and political possibilities. Douglas had natural
affinities with Chicago. It was thoroughly American, thoroughly
typical of that restless, aggressive spirit which had sent him, and
many another New Englander, into the great interior basin of the
continent. There was no other city which appealed so strongly to his
native instincts. From the first he had been impressed by its
commercial potentialities. He had staked his own fortunes upon its
invincible prosperity by investing in real estate, and within a few
years he had reaped the reward of his faith in unseen values. His
holdings both in the city and in Cook County advanced in value by
leaps and bounds, so that in the year 1856, he sold approximately one
hundred acres for $90,000. With his wonted prodigality, born of superb
confidence in future gains, he also deeded ten acres of his valuable
"Grove Property" to the trustees of Chicago University.[592] Yet with
a far keener sense of honor than many of his contemporaries exhibited,
he refused to speculate in land in the new States and Territories,
with whose political beginnings he would be associated as chairman of
the Committee on Territories. He was resolved early in his career "to
avoid public suspicion of private interest in his political

The gift to Chicago University was no doubt inspired in part at least
by local pride; yet it was not the first nor the only instance of the
donor's interest in educational matters. No one had taken greater
interest in the bequest of James Smithson to the United States. At
first, no doubt, Douglas labored under a common misapprehension
regarding this foundation, fancying that it would contribute directly
to the advancement and diffusion of the applied sciences; but his
support was not less hearty when he grasped the policy formulated by
the first secretary of the institution. He was the author of that
provision in the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, which
called for the presentation of one copy of every copyrighted book,
map, and musical composition, to the Institution and to the
Congressional Library.[594] He became a member of the board of regents
and retained the office until his death.

With his New England training Douglas believed profoundly in the
dignity of labor; not even his Southern associations lessened his
genuine admiration for the magnificent industrial achievements of the
Northern mechanic and craftsman. He shared, too, the conviction of his
Northern constituents, that the inventiveness, resourcefulness, and
bold initiative of the American workman was the outcome of free
institutions, which permitted and encouraged free and bold thinking.
The American laborer was not brought up to believe it "a crime to
think in opposition to the consecrated errors of olden times."[595] It
was impossible for a man so thinking to look with favor upon the
slave-labor system of the South. He might tolerate the presence of
slavery in the South; but in his heart of hearts he could not desire
its indefinite extension.

Douglas belonged to his section, too, in his attitude toward the
disposition of the public domain. He was one of the first to advocate
free grants of the public lands to homesteaders. His bill to grant one
hundred and sixty acres to actual settlers who should cultivate them
for four years, was the first of many similar projects in the early
fifties.[596] Southern statesmen thought this the best "bid" yet made
for votes: it was further evidence of Northern demagogism. The South,
indeed, had little direct interest in the peopling of the Western
prairies by independent yeomen, native or foreign. Just here Douglas
parted company with his Southern associates. He believed that the
future of the great West depended upon this wise and beneficial use of
the national domain. Neither could he agree with Eastern statesmen who
deplored the gratuitous distribution of lands, which by sale would
yield large revenues. His often-repeated reply was the quintessence
of Western statesmanship. The pioneer who went into the wilderness, to
wrestle with all manner of hardships, was a true wealth-producer. As
he cleared his land and tilled the soil, he not only himself became a
tax-payer, but he increased the value of adjoining lands and added to
the sum total of the national resources.[597]

Douglas gave his ungrudging support to grants of land in aid of
railroads and canals. He would not regard such grants, however, as
mere donations, but rather as wise provisions for increasing the value
of government lands. "The government of the United States is a great
land owner; she has vast bodies of land which she has had in market
for thirty or forty years; and experience proves that she cannot sell
them.... The difficulty in the way of the sale does not arise from the
fact that the lands are not fertile and susceptible to cultivation,
but that they are distant from market, and in many cases destitute of
timber."[598] Therefore he gave his voice and vote for nearly all land
grant bills, designed to aid the construction of railroads and canals
that would bring these public lands into the market; but he insisted
that everything should be done by individual enterprise if possible.
He shared the hostility of the West toward large grants of land to
private corporations.[599] What could not be done by individual
enterprise, should be done by the States; and only that should be
undertaken by the Federal government which could be done in no other

As the representative of a constituency which was profoundly
interested in the navigation of the great interior waterways of the
continent, Douglas was a vigorous advocate of internal improvements,
so far as his Democratic conscience would allow him to construe the
Constitution in favor of such undertakings by the Federal government.
Like his constituents, he was not always logical in his deductions
from constitutional provisions. The Constitution, he believed, would
not permit an appropriation of government money for the construction
of the ship canal around the Falls of the St. Mary's; but as
landowner, the Federal government might donate lands for that
purpose.[600] He was also constrained to vote for appropriations for
the improvement of river channels and of harbors on the lakes and on
the ocean, because these were works of a distinctly national
character; but he deplored the mode by which these appropriations were

Just when the Nebraska issue came to the fore, he was maturing a
scheme by which a fair, consistent, and continuous policy of internal
improvements could be initiated, in place of the political bargaining
which had hitherto determined the location of government operations.
Two days before he presented his famous Nebraska report, Douglas
addressed a letter to Governor Matteson of Illinois in which he
developed this new policy.[602] He believed that the whole question
would be thoroughly aired in the session just begun.[603] Instead of
making internal improvements a matter of politics, and of wasteful
jobbery, he would take advantage of the constitutional provision
which permits a State to lay tonnage duties by the consent of
Congress. If Congress would pass a law permitting the imposition of
tonnage duties according to a uniform rule, then each town and city
might be authorized to undertake the improvement of its own harbor,
and to tax its own commerce for the prosecution of the work. Under
such a system the dangers of misuse and improper diversion of funds
would be reduced to a minimum. The system would be self-regulative.
Negligence, or extravagance, with the necessary imposition of higher
duties, would punish a port by driving shipping elsewhere.

But for the interposition of the slavery issue, which no one would
have more gladly banished from Congress, Douglas would have
unquestionably pushed some such reform into the foreground. His heart
was bound up in the material progress of the country. He could never
understand why men should allow an issue like slavery to stand in the
way of prudential and provident legislation for the expansion of the
Republic. He laid claim to no expert knowledge in other matters: he
frankly confessed his ignorance of the mysteries of tariff schedules.
"I have learned enough about the tariff," said he with a sly thrust at
his colleagues, who prided themselves on their wisdom, "to know that I
know scarcely anything about it at all; and a man makes considerable
progress on a question of this kind when he ascertains that
fact."[604] Still, he grasped an elementary principle that had escaped
many a protectionist, that "a tariff involves two conflicting
principles which are eternally at war with each other. Every tariff
involves the principles of protection and of oppression, the
principles of benefits and of burdens.... The great difficulty is, so
to adjust these conflicting principles of benefits and burdens as to
make one compensate for the other in the end, and give equal benefits
and equal burdens to every class of the community."[605]

Douglas was wiser, too, than the children of light, when he insisted
that works of art should be admitted free of duty. "I wish we could
get a model of every work of art, a cast of every piece of ancient
statuary, a copy of every valuable painting and rare book, so that our
artists might pursue their studies and exercise their skill at home,
and that our literary men might not be exiled in the pursuits which
bless mankind."[606]

Still, the prime interests of this hardy son of the West were
political. How could they have been otherwise in his environment?
There is no evidence of literary refinement in his public utterances;
no trace of the culture which comes from intimate association with the
classics; no suggestion of inspiration quaffed in communion with
imaginative and poetic souls. An amusing recognition of these
limitations is vouched for by a friend, who erased a line of poetry
from a manuscript copy of a public address by Douglas. Taken to task
for his presumption, he defended himself by the indisputable
assertion, that Douglas was never known to have quoted a line of
poetry in his life.[607] Yet the unimaginative Douglas anticipated the
era of aërial navigation now just dawning. On one occasion, he urged
upon the Senate a memorial from an aëronaut, who desired the aid of
the government in experiments which he was conducting with dirigible
balloons. When the Senate, in a mirthful mood, proposed to refer the
petition to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Douglas protested that
the subject should be treated seriously.[608]

While Douglas was thus steadily growing into complete accord with the
New England elements in his section--save on one vital point,--he fell
captive to the beauty and grace of one whose associations were with
men and women south of Mason and Dixon's line. Adèle Cutts was the
daughter of Mr. J. Madison Cutts of Washington, who belonged to an old
Maryland family. She was the great-niece of Dolly Madison, whom she
much resembled in charm of manner. When Douglas first made her
acquaintance, she was the belle of Washington society,--in the days
when the capital still boasted of a genuine aristocracy of gentleness,
grace, and talent. There are no conflicting testimonies as to her
beauty. Women spoke of her as "beautiful as a pearl;" to men she
seemed "a most lovely and queenly apparition."[609] Both men and women
found her sunny-tempered, generous, warm-hearted, and sincere. What
could there have been in the serious-minded, dark-visaged "Little
Giant" to win the hand of this mistress of many hearts? Perhaps she
saw "Othello's visage in his mind"; perhaps she yielded to the
imperious will which would accept no refusal; at all events, Adèle
Cutts chose this plain little man of middle-age in preference to men
of wealth and title.[610] It proved to be in every respect a happy
marriage.[611] He cherished her with all the warmth of his manly
affection; she became the devoted partner of all his toils. His two
boys found in her a true mother; and there was not a household in
Washington where home-life was graced with tenderer mutual

Across this picture of domestic felicity, there fell but a single,
fugitive shadow. Adèle Cutts was an adherent of the Roman Church; and
at a time when Native Americanism was running riot with the sense of
even intelligent men, such ecclesiastical connections were made the
subject of some odious comment. Although Douglas permitted his boys to
be educated in the Catholic faith, and profoundly respected the
religious instincts of his tender-hearted wife, he never entered into
the Roman communion, nor in fact identified himself with any
church.[613] Much of his relentless criticism of Native Americanism
can be traced to his abhorrence of religious intolerance in any form.

This alliance meant much to Douglas. Since the death of his first
wife, he had grown careless in his dress and bearing, too little
regardful of conventionalities. He had sought by preference the
society of men, and had lost those external marks of good-breeding
which companionship with gentlewomen had given him. Insensibly he had
fallen a prey to a certain harshness and bitterness of temper, which
was foreign to his nature; and he had become reckless, so men said,
because of defeated ambition. But now yielding to the warmth of tender
domesticity, the true nature of the man asserted itself.[614] He grew,
perhaps not less ambitious, but more sensible of the obligations which
leadership imposed.

No one could gainsay his leadership. He was indisputably the most
influential man in his party; and this leadership was not bought by
obsequiousness to party opinion, nor by the shadowy arts of the
machine politician alone. True, he was a spoilsman, like all of his
contemporaries. He was not above using the spoils of office to reward
faithful followers. Reprehensible as the system was, and is, there is
perhaps a redeeming feature in this aspect of American politics. The
ignorant foreigner was reconciled to government because it was made to
appear to him as a personal benefactor. Due credit must be given to
those leaders like Douglas, who fired the hearts of Irishmen and
Germans with loyalty to the Union through the medium of party.[615]

The hold of Douglas upon his following, however, cannot be explained
by sordid appeals to their self-interest. He commanded the unbought
service of thousands. In the early days of his career, he had found
loyal friends, who labored unremittingly for his advancement, without
hope of pecuniary reward or of any return but personal gratitude; and
throughout his career he drew upon this vast fund of personal loyalty.
His capacity for warm friendships was unlimited. He made men,
particularly young men, feel that it was an inestimable boon to be
permitted to labor with him "for the cause." Far away in Asia Minor,
with his mind teeming with a thousand strange sensations, he can yet
think of a friend at the antipodes who nurses a grievance against him;
and forthwith he sits down and writes five pages of generous,
affectionate remonstrance.[616] In the thick of an important campaign,
when countless demands are made upon his time, he finds a moment to
lay his hand upon the shoulder of a young German ward-politician with
the hearty word, "I count very much on your help in this
election."[617] If this was the art of a politician, it was art
reduced to artlessness.

Not least among the qualities which made Douglas a great, persuasive,
popular leader, was his quite extraordinary memory for names and
faces, and his unaffected interest in the personal life of those whom
he called his friends. "He gave to every one of those humble and
practically nameless followers the impression, the feeling, that he
was the frank, personal friend of each one of them."[618] Doubtless he
was well aware that there is no subtler form of flattery, than to call
individuals by name who believe themselves to be forgotten pawns in a
great game; and he may well have cultivated the profitable habit.
Still, the fact remains, that it was an innate temperamental quality
which made him frank and ingenuous in his intercourse with all sorts
and conditions of men.

Those who judged the man by the senator, often failed to understand
his temperament. He was known as a hard hitter in parliamentary
encounters. He never failed to give a Roland for an Oliver. In the
heat of debate, he was often guilty of harsh, bitter invective. His
manner betrayed a lack of fineness and good-breeding. But his
resentment vanished with the spoken word. He repented the barbed
shaft, the moment it quitted his bow. He would invite to his table the
very men with whom he had been in acrimonious controversy, and perhaps
renew the controversy next day. Greeley testified to this absence of
resentment. On a certain occasion, after the New York _Tribune_ had
attacked Douglas savagely, a mutual acquaintance asked Douglas if he
objected to meeting the redoubtable Greeley. "Not at all," was the
good-natured reply, "I always pay that class of political debts as I
go along, so as to have no trouble with them in social intercourse and
to leave none for my executors to settle."[619]

In the round of social functions which Senator and Mrs. Douglas
enjoyed, there was little time for quiet thought and reflection. Men
who met him night after night at receptions and dinners, marvelled at
the punctuality with which he returned to the routine work of the
Senate next morning. Yet there was not a member of the Senate who had
a readier command of facts germane to the discussions of the hour. His
memory was a willing slave which never failed to do the bidding of
master intellect. Some of his ablest and most effective speeches were
made without preparation and with only a few pencilled notes at hand.
Truly Nature had been lavish in her gifts to him.

To nine-tenths of his devoted followers, he was still "Judge" Douglas.
It was odd that the title, so quickly earned and so briefly worn,
should have stuck so persistently to him. In legal attainments he fell
far short of many of his colleagues in the Senate. Had he but chosen
to apply himself, he might have been a conspicuous leader of the
American bar; but law was ever to him the servant of politics, and he
never cared to make the servant greater than his lord. That he would
have developed judicial qualities, may well be doubted; advocate he
was and advocate he remained, to the end of his days. So it was that
when a legal question arose, with far-reaching implications for
American politics, the lawyer and politician, rather than the judge,
laid hold upon the points of political significance.

The inauguration of James Buchanan and the Dred Scott decision of the
Supreme Court, two days later, marked a turning point in the career of
Judge Douglas. Of this he was of course unaware. He accepted the
advent of his successful rival with composure, and the opinion of the
Court, with comparative indifference. In a speech before the Grand
Jury of the United States District Court at Springfield, three months
later, he referred publicly for the first time to the Dred Scott case.
Senator, and not Judge, Douglas was much in evidence. He swallowed the
opinion of the majority of the court without wincing--the _obiter
dictum_ and all. Nay, more, he praised the Court for passing, like
honest and conscientious judges, from the technicalities of the case
to the real merits of the questions involved. The material,
controlling points of the case were: first, that a negro descended
from slave parents could not be a citizen of the United States;
second, that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and void
from the beginning, and thus could not extinguish a master's right to
his slave in any Territory. "While the right continues in full force
under ... the Constitution," he added, "and cannot be divested or
alienated by an act of Congress, it necessarily remains a barren and
worthless right, unless sustained, protected, and enforced by
appropriate police regulations and local legislation, prescribing
adequate remedies for its violation. These regulations and remedies
must necessarily depend entirely upon the will and wishes of the
people of the Territory, as they can only be prescribed by the local
legislatures." Hence the triumphant conclusion that "the great
principle of popular sovereignty and self-government is sustained and
firmly established by the authority of this decision."[620]

There were acute legal minds who thought that they detected a false
note in this paean. Was this a necessary implication from the Dred
Scott decision? Was it the intention of the Court to leave the
principle of popular sovereignty standing upright? Was not the
decision rather fatal to the great doctrine--the shibboleth of the
Democratic party?

On this occasion Douglas had nothing to add to his exposition of the
Dred Scott case, further than to point out the happy escape of white
supremacy from African equality. And here he struck the note which put
him out of accord with those Northern constituents with whom he was
otherwise in complete harmony. "When you confer upon the African race
the privileges of citizenship, and put them on an equality with white
men at the polls, in the jury box, on the bench, in the Executive
chair, and in the councils of the nation, upon what principle will you
deny their equality at the festive board and in the domestic circle?"
In the following year, he received his answer in the homely words of
Abraham Lincoln: "I do not understand that because I do not want a
negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife."

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 592: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 442-443; Iglehart, History of the
Douglas Estate in Chicago.]

[Footnote 593: Letter in Chicago _Times_, August 30, 1857.]

[Footnote 594: _Globe_, 29 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 749-750.]

[Footnote 595: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 870.]

[Footnote 596: _Ibid._, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 75.]

[Footnote 597: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 266.]

[Footnote 598: _Ibid._, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 350-351.]

[Footnote 599: _Ibid._, p. 769.]

[Footnote 600: _Globe_, 32 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 951.]

[Footnote 601: _Ibid._, p. 952.]

[Footnote 602: Letter to Governor Matteson, January 2, 1854, in
Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 358 ff.]

[Footnote 603: MS. Letter, Douglas to C.H. Lanphier, November 11,

[Footnote 604: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 953.]

[Footnote 605: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 953.]

[Footnote 606: _Ibid._, p. 1050.]

[Footnote 607: Chicago _Times_, January 27, 1858.]

[Footnote 608: _Globe_, 31 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 132.]

[Footnote 609: Mrs. Pryor, Reminiscences of Peace and War, p. 68;
Villard, Memoirs, I, p. 92.]

[Footnote 610: Letter of Mrs. Lippincott ("Grace Greenwood") to the

[Footnote 611: Conversation with Stephen A. Douglas, Esq., of

[Footnote 612: The marriage took place November 20, 1856.]

[Footnote 613: See Philadelphia _Press_, June 8, 1861.]

[Footnote 614: Letter of J.H. Roberts, Esq., of Chicago to the writer;
also letter of Mrs. Lippincott to the writer.]

[Footnote 615: See Philadelphia _Press_, November 17, 1860.]

[Footnote 616: For a copy of this letter, I am indebted to J.H.
Roberts, Esq., of Chicago.]

[Footnote 617: Conversation with Henry Greenbaum, Esq., of Chicago.]

[Footnote 618: Major G.M. McConnell in the Transactions of the
Illinois Historical Society, 1900; see also Forney, Anecdotes of
Public Men, I, p. 147.]

[Footnote 619: Schuyler Colfax in the South Bend _Register,_ June,
1861; Forney in his Eulogy, 1861; Greeley, Recollections of a Busy
Life, p. 359.]

[Footnote 620: The New York _Times_, June 23, 1857, published this
speech of June 12th, in full.]



Had anyone prophesied at the close of the year 1856, that within a
twelvemonth Douglas would be denounced as a traitor to Democracy, he
would have been thought mad. That Douglas of all men should break with
his party under any circumstances was almost unthinkable. His whole
public career had been inseparably connected with his party. To be
sure, he had never gone so far as to say "my party right or wrong";
but that was because he had never felt obliged to make a moral choice.
He was always convinced that his party was right. Within the
circumference of party, he had always found ample freedom of movement.
He had never lacked the courage of his convictions, but hitherto his
convictions had never collided with the dominant opinion of Democracy.
He undoubtedly believed profoundly in the mission of his party, as an
organization standing above all for popular government and the
preservation of the Union. No ordinary circumstances would justify him
in weakening the influence or impairing the organization of the
Democratic party. Paradoxical as it may seem, his partisanship was
dictated by a profound patriotism. He believed the maintenance of the
Union to be dependent upon the integrity of his party. So thinking and
feeling he entered upon the most memorable controversy of his career.

When President Buchanan asked Robert J. Walker of Mississippi to
become governor of Kansas, the choice met with the hearty approval of
Douglas. Not all the President's appointments had been acceptable to
the Senator from Illinois. But here was one that he could indorse
unreservedly. He used all his influence to persuade Walker to accept
the uncoveted mission. With great reluctance Walker consented, but
only upon the most explicit understanding with the administration as
to the policy to be followed in Kansas. It was well understood on both
sides that a true construction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act required the
submission to popular vote of any constitution which the prospective
convention might adopt. This was emphatically the view of Douglas,
whom Governor Walker took pains to consult on his way through

The call for an election of delegates to a constitutional convention
had already been issued, when Walker reached Kansas. The free-State
people were incensed because the appointment of delegates had been
made on the basis of a defective census and registration; and even the
assurance of the governor, in his inaugural, that the constitution
would be submitted to a popular vote, failed to overcome their
distrust. They therefore took no part in the election of delegates.
This course was unfortunate, for it gave the control of the convention
wholly into the hands of the pro-slavery party, with consequences that
were far-reaching for Kansas and the nation.[622] But by October the
free-State party had abandoned its policy of abstention from
territorial politics, so far as to participate in the election of a
new territorial legislature. The result was a decisive free-State
victory. The next legislature would have an ample majority of
free-State men in both chambers. It was with the discomfiting
knowledge, then, that they represented only a minority of the
community that the delegates of the constitutional convention began
their labors.[623] It was clear to the dullest intelligence that any
pro-slavery constitution would be voted down, if it were submitted
fairly to the people of Kansas. Gloom settled down upon the hopes of
the pro-slavery party.

When the document which embodied the labors of the convention was made
public, the free-State party awoke from its late complacence to find
itself tricked by a desperate game. The constitution was not to be
submitted to a full and fair vote; but only the article relating to
slavery. The people of Kansas were to vote for the "Constitution with
slavery" or for the "Constitution with no slavery." By either
alternative the constitution would be adopted. But should the
constitution with no slavery be ratified, a clause of the schedule
still guaranteed "the right of property in slaves now in this
Territory."[624] The choice offered to an opponent of slavery in
Kansas was between a constitution sanctioning and safeguarding all
forms of slave property,[625] and a constitution which guaranteed the
full possession of slaves then in the Territory, with no assurances
as to the status of the natural increase of these slaves. Viewed in
the most charitable light, this was a gambler's device for securing
the stakes by hook or crook. Still further to guard existing property
rights in slaves, it was provided that if the constitution should be
amended after 1864, no alteration should be made to affect "the rights
of property in the ownership of slaves."[626]

The news from Lecompton stirred Douglas profoundly. In a peculiar
sense he stood sponsor for justice to bleeding Kansas, not only
because he had advocated in abstract terms the perfect freedom of the
people to form their domestic institutions in their own way, but
because he had become personally responsible for the conduct of the
leader of the Lecompton party. John Calhoun, president of the
convention, had been appointed surveyor general of the Territory upon
his recommendation. Governor Walker had retained Calhoun in that
office because of Douglas's assurance that Calhoun would support the
policy of submission.[627] Moreover, Governor Walker had gone to his
post with the assurance that the leaders of the administration would
support this course.

Was it likely that the pro-slavery party in Kansas would take this
desperate course, without assurance of some sort from Washington?
There were persistent rumors that President Buchanan approved the
Lecompton constitution,[628] but Douglas was loth to give credence to
them. The press of Illinois and of the Northwest voiced public
sentiment in condemning the work of the Lecomptonites.[629] Douglas
was soon on his way to Washington, determined to know the President's
mind; his own was made up.

The interview between President Buchanan and Douglas, as recounted by
the latter, takes on a dramatic aspect.[630] Douglas found his worst
fears realized. The President was clearly under the influence of an
aggressive group of Southern statesmen, who were bent upon making
Kansas a slave State under the Lecompton constitution. Laboring under
intense feeling, Douglas then threw down the gauntlet: he would oppose
the policy of the administration publicly to the bitter end. "Mr.
Douglas," said the President rising to his feet excitedly, "I desire
you to remember that no Democrat ever yet differed from an
administration of his own choice without being crushed. Beware of the
fate of Tallmadge and Rives." "Mr. President" rejoined Douglas also
rising, "I wish you to remember that General Jackson is dead."

The Chicago _Times_, reporting the interview, intimated that there had
been a want of agreement, but no lack of courtesy or regard on either
side. Douglas was not yet ready to issue an ultimatum. The situation
might be remedied. On the night following this memorable encounter,
Douglas was serenaded by friends and responded with a brief speech,
but he did not allude to the Kansas question.[631] It was generally
expected that he would show his hand on Monday, the opening day of
Congress. The President's message did not reach Congress, however,
until Tuesday. Immediately upon its reading, Douglas offered the usual
motion to print the message, adding, as he took his seat, that he
totally dissented from "that portion of the message which may fairly
be construed as approving of the proceedings of the Lecompton
convention." At an early date he would state the reasons for his

On the following day, December 9th, Douglas took the irrevocable step.
For three hours he held the Senate and the audience in the galleries
in rapt attention, while with more than his wonted gravity and
earnestness he denounced the Lecompton constitution.[633] He began
with a conciliatory reference to the President's message. He was happy
to find, after a more careful examination, that the President had
refrained from making any recommendation as to the course which
Congress should pursue with regard to the constitution. And so, he
added adroitly, the Kansas question is not to be treated as an
administration measure. He shared the disappointment of the President
that the constitution had not been submitted fully and freely to the
people of Kansas; but the President, he conceived, had made a
fundamental error in supposing that the Nebraska Act provided for the
disposition of the slavery question apart from other local matters.
The direct opposite was true. The main object of the Act was to remove
an odious restriction by which the people had been prevented from
deciding the slavery question for themselves, like all other local and
domestic concerns. If the President was right in thinking that by the
terms of the Nebraska bill the slavery question must be submitted to
the people, then every other clause of the constitution should be
submitted to them. To do less would be to reduce popular sovereignty
to a farce.

But Douglas could not maintain this conciliatory attitude. His sense
of justice was too deeply outraged. He recalled facts which every
well-informed person knew. "I know that men, high in authority and in
the confidence of the territorial and National Government, canvassed
every part of Kansas during the election of delegates, and each one of
them pledged himself to the people that no snap judgment was to be
taken. Up to the time of the meeting of the convention, in October
last, the pretense was kept up, the profession was openly made, and
believed by me, and I thought believed by them, that the convention
intended to submit a constitution to the people, and not to attempt to
put a government in operation without such submission."[634] How was
this pledge redeemed? All men, forsooth, must vote for the
constitution, whether they like it or not, in order to be permitted to
vote for or against slavery! This would be like an election under the
First Consul, when, so his enemies averred, Napoleon addressed his
troops with the words: "Now, my soldiers, you are to go to the
election and vote freely just as you please. If you vote for Napoleon,
all is well; vote against him, and you are to be instantly shot." That
was a fair election! "This election," said Douglas with bitter irony,
"is to be _equally fair!_ All men in favor of the constitution may
vote for it--all men against it shall not vote at all! Why not let
them vote against it? I have asked a very large number of the
gentlemen who framed the constitution ... and I have received the same
answer from every one of them.... They say if they allowed a negative
vote the constitution would have been voted down by an overwhelming
majority, and hence the fellows shall not be allowed to vote at all."

"Will you force it on them against their will," he demanded, "simply
because they would have voted it down if you had consulted them? If
you will, are you going to force it upon them under the plea of
leaving them perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic
institutions in their own way? Is that the mode in which I am called
upon to carry out the principle of self-government and popular
sovereignty in the Territories?" It is no answer, he argued, that the
constitution is unobjectionable. "You have no right to force an
unexceptionable constitution on a people." The pro-slavery clause was
not the offense in the constitution, to his mind. "If Kansas wants a
slave-State constitution she has a right to it, if she wants a
free-State constitution she has a right to it. It is none of my
business which way the slavery clause is decided. I care not whether
it is voted up or down." The whole affair looked to him "like a system
of trickery and jugglery to defeat the fair expression of the will of
the people."[635]

The vehemence of his utterance had now carried Douglas perhaps farther
than he had meant to go.[636] He paused to plead for a fair policy
which would redeem party pledges:

     "Ignore Lecompton, ignore Topeka; treat both those party
     movements as irregular and void; pass a fair bill--the one
     that we framed ourselves when we were acting as a unit; have
     a fair election--and you will have peace in the Democratic
     party, and peace throughout the country, in ninety days. The
     people want a fair vote. They never will be satisfied
     without it. They never should be satisfied without a fair
     vote on their Constitution....

     "Frame any other bill that secures a fair, honest vote, to
     men of all parties, and carries out the pledge that the
     people shall be left free to decide on their domestic
     institutions for themselves, and I will go with you with
     pleasure, and with all the energy I may possess. But if this
     Constitution is to be forced down our throats, in violation
     of the fundamental principle of free government, under a
     mode of submission that is a mockery and insult, I will
     resist it to the last. I have no fear of any party
     associations being severed. I should regret any social or
     political estrangement, even temporarily; but if it must be,
     if I can not act with you and preserve my faith and my
     honor, I will stand on the great principle of popular
     sovereignty, which declares the right of all people to be
     left perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic
     institutions in their own way. I will follow that principle
     wherever its logical consequences may take me, and I will
     endeavor to defend it against assault from any and all
     quarters. No mortal man shall be responsible for my action
     but myself. By my action I will compromit no man."[637]

The speech made a profound impression. No one could mistake its
import. The correspondent of the New York _Tribune_ was right in
thinking that it "marked an important era in our political
history."[638] Douglas had broken with the dominant pro-slavery
faction of his party. How far he would carry his party with him,
remained to be seen. But that a battle royal was imminent, was
believed on all sides. "The struggle of Douglas with the slave-power
will be a magnificent spectacle to witness," wrote one who had
hitherto evinced little admiration for the author of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act.[639]

Douglas kept himself well in hand throughout his speech. His manner
was at times defiant, but his language was restrained. At no time did
he disclose the pain which his rupture with the administration cost
him, except in his closing words. What he had to expect from the
friends of the administration was immediately manifest. Senator Bigler
of Pennsylvania sprang to the defense of the President. In an
irritating tone he intimated that Douglas himself had changed his
position on the question of submission, alluding to certain private
conferences at Douglas's house; but as though bound by a pledge of
secrecy, Bigler refrained from making the charge in so many words.
Douglas, thoroughly aroused, at once absolved, him from any pledges,
and demanded to know when they had agreed not to submit the
constitution to the people. The reply of Bigler was still allusive and
evasive. "Does he mean to say," insisted Douglas excitedly, "that I
ever was, privately or publicly, in my own house or any other, in
favor of a constitution without its being submitted to the people?" "I
have made no such allegation," was the reply. "You have allowed it to
be inferred," exclaimed Douglas in exasperated tones.[640] And then
Green reminded him, that in his famous report of January 4, 1854, he
had proposed to leave the slavery question to the decision of the
people "by their appropriate representatives chosen by them for that
purpose," with no suggestion of a second, popular vote. Truly, his
most insidious foes were now those of his own political household.

Anti-slavery men welcomed this revolt of Douglas without crediting him
with any but self-seeking motives. They could not bring themselves to
believe other than ill of the man who had advocated the repeal of the
Missouri Compromise. Republicans accepted his aid in their struggle
against the Lecompton fraud, but for the most part continued to regard
him with distrust. Indeed, Douglas made no effort to placate them. He
professed to care nothing for the cause of the slave which was nearest
their hearts. Hostile critics, then, were quick to point out the
probable motives from which he acted. His senatorial term was drawing
to a close. He was of course desirous of a re-election. But his
nominee for governor had been defeated at the last election, and the
State had been only with difficulty carried for the national
candidates of the party. The lesson was plain: the people of Illinois
did not approve the Kansas policy of Senator Douglas. Hence the
weathercock obeyed the wind.

In all this there was a modicum of truth. Douglas would not have been
the power that he was, had he not kept in touch with his constituency.
But a sense of honor, a desire for consistency, and an abiding faith
in the justice of his great principle, impelled him in the same
direction. These were thoroughly honorable motives, even if he
professed an indifference as to the fate of the negro. He had pledged
his word of honor to his constituents that the people of Kansas should
have a fair chance to pronounce upon their constitution. Nothing short
of this would have been consistent with popular sovereignty as he had
expounded it again and again. And Douglas was personally a man of
honor. Yet when all has been said, one cannot but regret that the
sense of fair play, which was strong in him, did not assert itself in
the early stages of the Kansas conflict and smother that lawyer's
instinct to defend, a client by the technicalities of the law. Could
he only have sought absolute justice for the people of Kansas in the
winter of 1856, the purity of his motives would not have been
questioned in the winter of 1858.

Even those colleagues of Douglas who doubted his motives, could not
but admire his courage. It did, indeed, require something more than
audacity to head a revolt against the administration. No man knew
better the thorny road that he must now travel. No man loved his party
more. No man knew better the hazard to the Union that must follow a
rupture in the Democratic party. But if Douglas nursed the hope that
Democratic senators would follow his lead, he was sadly disappointed.
Three only came to his support--Broderick of California, Pugh of Ohio,
and Stuart of Michigan,--while the lists of the administration were
full. Green, Bigler, Fitch, in turn were set upon him.

Douglas bitterly resented any attempt to read him out of the party by
making the Lecompton constitution the touchstone of genuine Democracy;
yet each day made it clearer that the administration had just that end
in view. Douglas complained of a tyranny not consistent with free
Democratic action. One might differ with the President on every
subject but Kansas, without incurring suspicion. Every pensioned
letter writer, he complained, had been intimating for the last two
weeks that he had deserted the Democratic party and gone over to the
Black Republicans. He demanded to know who authorized these
tales.[641] Senator Fitch warned him solemnly that the Democratic
party was the only political link in the chain which now bound the
States together. "None ... will hold that man guiltless, who abandons
it upon a question having in it so little of practical importance ...
and by seeking its destruction, thereby admits his not unwillingness
that a similar fate should be visited on the Union, perhaps, to
subserve his selfish purpose."[642] These attacks roused Douglas to
vehement defiance. More emphatically than ever, he declared the
Lecompton constitution "a trick, a fraud upon the rights of the

If Douglas misjudged the temper of his colleagues, he at least gauged
correctly the drift of public sentiment in Illinois and the Northwest.
Of fifty-six Democratic newspapers in Illinois, but one ventured to
condone the Lecompton fraud.[643] Mass meetings in various cities of
the Northwest expressed confidence in the course of Senator Douglas.

He now occupied a unique position at the capital. Visitors were quite
as eager to see the man who had headed the revolt as to greet the
chief executive.[644] His residence, where Mrs. Douglas dispensed a
gracious hospitality, was fairly besieged with callers.[645]
Washington society was never gayer than during this memorable
winter.[646] None entertained more lavishly than Senator and Mrs.
Douglas. Whatever unpopularity he incurred at the Capitol, she more
than offset by her charming and gracious personality. Acknowledged as
the reigning queen of the circle in which she moved, Mrs. Douglas
displayed a social initiative that seconded admirably the independent,
self-reliant attitude of her husband. When Adèle Cutts Douglas chose
to close the shutters of her house at noon, and hold a reception by
artificial light every Saturday afternoon, society followed her lead.
There were no more brilliant affairs in Washington than these
afternoon receptions and hops at the Douglas residence in Minnesota
Block.[647] In contrast to these functions dominated by a thoroughly
charming personality, the formal precision of the receptions at the
White House was somewhat chilling and forbidding. President Buchanan,
bachelor, with his handsome but somewhat self-contained niece, was not
equal to this social rivalry.[648] Moreover, the cares of office
permitted the perplexed, wearied, and timid executive no respite day
or night.

Events in Kansas gave heart to those who were fighting Lecomptonism.
At the election appointed by the convention, the "constitution with
slavery" was adopted by a large majority, the free-State people
refusing to vote; but the legislature, now in the control of the
free-State party, had already provided for a fair vote on the whole
constitution. On this second vote the majority was overwhelmingly
against the constitution. Information from various sources
corroborated the deductions which unprejudiced observers drew from the
voting. It was as clear as day that the people of Kansas did not
regard the Lecompton constitution as a fair expression of their

Ignoring the light which made the path of duty plain, President
Buchanan sent the Lecompton constitution to Congress with a message
recommending the admission of Kansas.[650] To his mind, the Lecompton
convention was legally constituted and had exercised its powers
faithfully. The organic act did not bind the convention to submit to
the people more than the question of slavery. Meantime the Supreme
Court had handed down its famous decision in the Dred Scott case.
Fortified by this dictum, the President told Congress that slavery
existed in Kansas by virtue of the Constitution of the United States.
"Kansas is, at this moment, as much a slave State as Georgia or South
Carolina"! Slavery, then, could be prohibited only by constitutional
provision; and those who desired to do away with slavery would most
speedily compass their ends, if they admitted Kansas at once under
this constitution.

The President's message with the Lecompton constitution was referred
to the Committee on Territories and gave rise to three reports:
Senator Green of Missouri presented the majority report, recommending
the admission of Kansas under this constitution; Senators Collamer and
Wade united on a minority report, leaving Douglas to draft another
expressing his dissent on other grounds.[651] Taken all in all, this
must be regarded as the most satisfactory and convincing of all
Douglas's committee reports. It is strong because it is permeated by
a desire for justice, and reinforced at every point by a consummate
marshalling of evidence. Barely in his career had his conspicuous
qualities as a special pleader been put so unreservedly at the service
of simple justice. He planted himself firmly, at the outset, upon the
incontrovertible fact that there was no satisfactory evidence that the
Lecompton constitution was the act and deed of the people of

It had been argued that, because the Lecompton convention had been
duly constituted, with full power to ordain a constitution and
establish a government, consequently the proceedings of the convention
must be presumed to embody the popular will. Douglas immediately
challenged this assumption. The convention had no more power than the
territorial legislature could confer. By no fair construction of the
Kansas-Nebraska Act could it be assumed that the people of the
Territory were authorized, "at their own will and pleasure, to resolve
themselves into a sovereign power, and to abrogate and annul the
organic act and territorial government established by Congress, and to
ordain a constitution and State government upon their ruins, without
the consent of Congress." Surely, then, a convention which the
territorial legislature called into being could not abrogate or impair
the authority of that territorial government established by Congress.
Hence, he concluded, the Lecompton constitution, formed without the
consent of Congress, must be considered as a memorial or petition,
which Congress may accept or reject. The convention was the creature
of the territorial legislature. "Such being the case, whenever the
legislature ascertained that the convention whose existence depended
upon its will, had devised a scheme to force a constitution upon the
people without their consent, and without any authority from Congress,
... it became their imperative duty to interpose and exert the
authority conferred upon them by Congress in the organic act, and
arrest and prevent the consummation of the scheme before it had gone
into operation."[653] This was an unanswerable argument.

In the prolonged debate upon the admission of Kansas, Douglas took
part only as some taunt or challenge brought him to his feet. While
the bill for the admission of Minnesota, also reported by the
Committee on Territories, was under fire, Senator Brown of Mississippi
elicited from Douglas the significant concession, that he did not deem
an enabling act absolutely essential, so long as the constitution
clearly embodied the will of the people. Neither did he think a
submission of the constitution always essential; it was, however, a
fair way of ascertaining the popular will, when that will was
disputed." Satisfy me that the constitution adopted by the people of
Minnesota is their will, and I am prepared to adopt it. Satisfy me
that the constitution adopted, or said to be adopted, by the people of
Kansas, is their will, and I am prepared to take it.... I will never
apply one rule to a free State and another to a slave-holding
State."[654] Nevertheless, even his Democratic colleagues continued to
believe that slavery had something to do with his opposition. In the
classic phraseology of Toombs, "there was a 'nigger' in it."

The opposition of Douglas began to cause no little uneasiness. Brown
paid tribute to his influence, when he declared that if the Senator
from Illinois had stood with the administration, "there would not have
been a ripple on the surface." "Sir, the Senator from Illinois gives
life, he gives vitality, he gives energy, he lends the aid of his
mighty genius and his powerful will to the Opposition on this
question."[655] But Douglas paid a fearful price for this power. Every
possible ounce of pressure was brought to bear upon him. The party
press was set upon him. His friends were turned out of office. The
whole executive patronage was wielded mercilessly against his
political following. The Washington _Union_ held him up to execration
as a traitor, renegade, and deserter.[656] "We cannot affect
indifference at the treachery of Senator Douglas," said a Richmond
paper. "He was a politician of considerable promise. Association with
Southern gentlemen had smoothed down the rugged vulgarities of his
early education, and he had come to be quite a decent and well-behaved
person."[657] To political denunciation was now to be added the sting
of mean and contemptible personalities.

Small wonder that even the vigorous health of "the Little Giant"
succumbed to these assaults. For a fortnight he was confined to his
bed, rising only by sheer force of will to make a final plea for
sanity, before his party took its suicidal plunge. He spoke on the 22d
of March under exceptional conditions. In the expectation that he
would speak in the forenoon, people thronged the galleries at an
early hour, and refused to give up their seats, even when it was
announced that the Senator from Illinois would not address the Senate
until seven o 'clock in the evening. When the hour came, crowds still
held possession of the galleries, so that not even standing room was
available. The door-keepers wrestled in vain with an impatient throng
without, until by motion of Senator Gwin, ladies were admitted to the
floor of the chamber. Even then, Douglas was obliged to pause several
times, for the confusion around the doors to subside.[658] He spoke
with manifest difficulty, but he was more defiant than ever. His
speech was at once a protest and a personal vindication. Denial of the
right of the administration to force the Lecompton constitution upon
the people of Kansas, went hand in hand with a defense of his own
Democracy. Sentences culled here and there suggest not unfairly the
stinging rebukes and defiant challenges that accentuated the none too
coherent course of his speech:

     "I am told that this Lecompton constitution is a party test,
     a party measure; that no man is a Democrat who does not
     sanction it ... Sir, who made it a party test? Who made it a
     party measure?... Who has interpolated this Lecompton
     constitution into the party platform?... Oh! but we are told
     it is an Administration measure. Because it is an
     Administration measure, does it therefore follow that it is
     a party measure?" ... "I do not recognize the right of the
     President or his Cabinet ... to tell me my duty in the
     Senate Chamber." "Am I to be told that I must obey the
     Executive and betray my State, or else be branded as a
     traitor to the party, and hunted down by all the newspapers
     that share the patronage of the government, and every man
     who holds a petty office in any part of my State to have the
     question put to him, 'Are you Douglas's enemy? if not, your
     head comes off.'" "I intend to perform my duty in
     accordance with my own convictions. Neither the frowns of
     power nor the influence of patronage will change my action,
     or drive me from my principles. I stand firmly, immovably
     upon those great principles of self-government and state
     sovereignty upon which the campaign was fought and the
     election won.... If, standing firmly by my principles, I
     shall be driven into private life, it is a fate that has no
     terrors for me. I prefer private life, preserving my own
     self-respect and manhood, to abject and servile submission
     to executive will. If the alternative be private life or
     servile obedience to executive will, I am prepared to
     retire. Official position has no charms for me when deprived
     of that freedom of thought and action which becomes a
     gentleman and a senator.'"[659]

On the following day, the Senate passed the bill for the admission of
Kansas under the Lecompton constitution, having rejected the amendment
of Crittenden to submit that constitution to a vote of the people of
Kansas. A similar amendment, however, was carried in the House. As
neither chamber would recede from its position, a conference committee
was appointed to break the deadlock.[660] It was from this committee,
controlled by Lecomptonites, that the famous English bill emanated.
Stated briefly, the substance of this compromise measure--for such it
was intended to be--was as follows: Congress was to offer to Kansas a
conditional grant of public lands; if this land ordinance should be
accepted by a popular vote, Kansas was to be admitted to the Union
with the Lecompton constitution by proclamation of the President; if
it should be rejected, Kansas was not to be admitted until the
Territory had a population equal to the unit of representation
required for the House of Representatives.

Taken all in all, the bill was as great a concession as could be
expected from the administration. Not all were willing to say that the
bill provided for a vote on the constitution, but Northern adherents
could point to the vote on the land ordinance as an indirect vote upon
the constitution. It is not quite true to say that the land grant was
a bribe to the voters of Kansas. As a matter of fact, the amount of
land granted was only equal to that usually offered to the
Territories, and it was considerably less than the area specified in
the Lecompton constitution. Moreover, even if the land ordinance were
defeated in order to reject the constitution, the Territory was pretty
sure to secure as large a grant at some future time. It was rather in
the alternative held out, that the English bill was unsatisfactory to
those who loved fair play. Still, under the bill, the people of
Kansas, by an act of self-denial, could defeat the Lecompton
constitution. To that extent, the supporters of the administration
yielded to the importunities of the champion of popular sovereignty.

Under these circumstances it would not be strange if Douglas
"wavered."[661] Here was an opportunity to close the rift between
himself and the administration, to heal party dissensions, perhaps to
save the integrity of the Democratic party and the Union. And the
price which he would have to pay was small. He could assume, plausibly
enough,--as he had done many times before in his career,--that the
bill granted all that he had ever asked. He was morally sure that the
people of Kansas would reject the land grant to rid themselves of the
Lecompton fraud. Why hesitate then as to means, when the desired end
was in clear view?

Douglas found himself subjected to a new pressure, harder even to
resist than any he had yet felt. Some of his staunch supporters in the
anti-Lecompton struggle went over to the administration, covering
their retreat by just such excuses as have been suggested. Was he
wiser and more conscientious than they? A refusal to accept the
proffered olive branch now meant,--he knew it well,--the
irreconcilable enmity of the Buchanan faction. And he was not asked to
recant, but only to accept what he had always deemed the very essence
of statesmanship, a compromise. His Republican allies promptly evinced
their distrust. They fully expected him to join his former associates.
From them he could expect no sympathy in such a dilemma.[662] His
political ambitions, no doubt, added to his perplexity. They were
bound up in the fate of the party, the integrity of which was now
menaced by his revolt. On the other hand, he was fully conscious that
his Illinois constituency approved of his opposition to Lecomptonism
and would regard a retreat across this improvised political bridge as
both inglorious and treacherous. Agitated by conflicting emotions,
Douglas made a decision which probably cost him more anguish than any
he ever made; and when all has been said to the contrary, love of fair
play would seem to have been his governing motive.[663]

When Douglas rose to address the Senate on the English bill, April
29th, he betrayed some of the emotion under which he had made his
decision. He confessed an "anxious desire" to find such provisions as
would permit him to support the bill; but he was painfully forced to
declare that he could not find the principle for which he had
contended, fairly carried out. He was unable to reconcile popular
sovereignty with the proposed intervention of Congress in the English
bill. "It is intervention with inducements to control the result. It
is intervention with a bounty on the one side and a penalty on the
other."[664] He frankly admitted that he did not believe there was
enough in the bounty nor enough in the penalty to influence materially
the vote of the people of Kansas; but it involved "the principle of
freedom of election and--the great principle of self-government upon
which our institutions rest." And upon this principle he took his
stand. "With all the anxiety that I have had," said he with deep
feeling, "to be able to arrive at a conclusion in harmony with the
overwhelming majority of my political friends in Congress, I could not
bring my judgment or conscience to the conclusion that this was a
fair, impartial, and equal application of the principle."[665]

As though to make reconciliation with the administration impossible,
Douglas went on to express his distrust of the provision of the bill
for a board of supervisors of elections. Instead of a board of four,
two of whom should represent the Territory and two the Federal
government, as the Crittenden bill had provided, five were to
constitute the board, of whom three were to be United States
officials. "Does not this change," asked Douglas significantly, "give
ground for apprehension that you may have the Oxford, the Shawnee, and
the Delaware Crossing and Kickapoo frauds re-enacted at this
election?"[666] The most suspicions Republican could hardly have dealt
an unkinder thrust.

There could be no manner of doubt as to the outcome of the English
bill in the Senate. Douglas, Stuart, and Broderick were the only
Democrats to oppose its passage, Pugh having joined the majority. The
bill passed the House also, nine of Douglas's associates in the
anti-Lecompton fight going over to the administration.[667] Douglas
accepted this defection with philosophic equanimity, indulging in no
vindictive feelings.[668] Had he not himself felt misgivings as to his
own course?

By midsummer the people of Kansas had recorded nearly ten thousand
votes against the land ordinance and the Lecompton constitution. The
administration had failed to make Kansas a slave State. Yet the
Supreme Court had countenanced the view that Kansas was legally a
slave Territory. What, then, became of the great fundamental principle
of popular sovereignty? This was the question which Douglas was now
called upon to answer.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 621: Report of the Covode Committee, pp. 105-106; Cutts,
Constitutional and Party Questions, p. 111; Speech of Douglas at
Milwaukee, Wis., October 14, 1860, Chicago _Times and Herald_, October
17, 1860.]

[Footnote 622: Spring, Kansas, p. 213; Rhodes, History of the United
States, II, p. 274.]

[Footnote 623: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 277-278.]

[Footnote 624: _Ibid._, pp. 278-279; Spring, Kansas, p. 223.]

[Footnote 625: See Article VII, of the Kansas constitution, Senate
Reports, No. 82, 35 Cong., 1 Sess.]

[Footnote 626: Schedule Section 14.]

[Footnote 627: Covode Report, p. 111.]

[Footnote 628: Chicago _Times_, November 19, 1857.]

[Footnote 629: Chicago _Times_, November 20 and 21, 1857.]

[Footnote 630: Speech at Milwaukee, October 14, 1860, Chicago _Times
and Herald_, October 17, 1860.]

[Footnote 631: New York _Tribune_, December 3, 1857.]

[Footnote 632: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 5.]

[Footnote 633: Chicago _Times_, December 19, 1857.]

[Footnote 634: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 17.]

[Footnote 635: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 17-18.]

[Footnote 636: "I spoke rapidly, without preparation," he afterward
said. _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 47.]

[Footnote 637: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 18.]

[Footnote 638: New York _Tribune_, December 9, 1857.]

[Footnote 639: New York _Tribune_, December 10, 1857.]

[Footnote 640: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 21-22.]

[Footnote 641: _Globe_, 5 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 120.]

[Footnote 642: _Ibid._, p. 137.]

[Footnote 643: Chicago _Times_, December 24, 1857.]

[Footnote 644: _Ibid._, December 23, 1857.]

[Footnote 645: Correspondent to Cleveland _Plaindealer_, quoted in
Chicago _Times_, January 29, 1858.]

[Footnote 646: Mrs. Jefferson Davis to Mrs. Pierce, MS. Letter, April
4, 1858.]

[Footnote 647: Mrs. Roger Pryor, Reminiscences of Peace and War, pp.

[Footnote 648: _Ibid._, Chapter 4.]

[Footnote 649: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 289.]

[Footnote 650: Message of February 2, 1858.]

[Footnote 651: Senate Report No. 82, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., February 18,

[Footnote 652: Minority Report, p. 52.]

[Footnote 653: Minority Report, p. 64.]

[Footnote 654: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 502.]

[Footnote 655: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 572-573.]

[Footnote 656: Washington _Union_, February 26, 1858.]

[Footnote 657: Richmond _South_, quoted in Chicago _Times_, December
18, 1857.]

[Footnote 658: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 328; _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess.,
App., pp. 193-194.]

[Footnote 659: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., App., pp. 194-201,

[Footnote 660: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 297-299.]

[Footnote 661: Wilson, Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, II, p. 563.]

[Footnote 662: Wilson, Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, II, pp.

[Footnote 663: This cannot, of course, be demonstrated, but it accords
with his subsequent conduct.]

[Footnote 664: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1869.]

[Footnote 665: _Ibid._, p. 1870.]

[Footnote 666: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 1870.]

[Footnote 667: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 300.]

[Footnote 668: Cox, Three Decades of Federal Legislation, p. 58.]



National politics made strange bed-fellows in the winter of 1857-8.
Douglas consorting with Republicans and flouting the administration,
was a rare spectacle. There was a moment in this odd alliance when it
seemed likely to become more than a temporary fusion of interests. The
need of concerted action brought about frequent conferences, in which
the distrust of men like Wilson and Colfax was, in a measure,
dispelled by the engaging frankness of their quondam opponent.[669]
Douglas intimated that in all probability he could not act with his
party in future.[670] He assured Wilson that he was in the fight to
stay--in his own words, "he had checked his baggage and taken a
through ticket."[671] There was an odd disposition, too, on the part
of some Republicans to indorse popular sovereignty, now that it seemed
likely to exclude slavery from the Territories.[672] There was even a
rumor afloat that the editor of the New York _Tribune_ favored Douglas
for the presidency.[673] On at least two occasions, Greeley was in
conference with Senator Douglas at the latter's residence. To the
gossiping public this was evidence enough that the rumor was correct.
And it may well be that Douglas dallied with the hope that a great
Constitutional Union party might be formed.[674] But he could hardly
have received much encouragement from the Republicans, with whom he
was consorting, for so far from losing their political identity, they
calculated upon bringing him eventually within the Republican

A Constitutional Union party, embracing Northern and Southern
Unionists of Whig or Democratic antecedents, might have supplied the
gap left by the old Whig party. That such a party would have exercised
a profound nationalizing influence can scarcely be doubted. Events
might have put Douglas at the head of such a party. But, in truth,
such an outcome of the political chaos which then reigned, was a
remote possibility.

The matter of immediate concern to Douglas was the probable attitude
of his allies toward his re-election to the Senate. There was a wide
divergence among Republican leaders; but active politicians like
Greeley and Wilson, who were not above fighting the devil with his own
weapons, counselled their Illinois brethren not to oppose his
return.[676] There was no surer way to disrupt the Democratic party.
In spite of these admonitions, the Republicans of Illinois were bent
upon defeating Douglas. He had been too uncompromising and bitter an
opponent of Trumbull and other "Black Republicans" to win their
confidence by a few months of conflict against Lecomptonism. "I see
his tracks all over our State," wrote the editor of the Chicago
_Tribune_, "they point only in one direction; not a single toe is
turned toward the Republican camp. Watch him, use him, but do not
trust him--not an inch."[677] Moreover, a little coterie of
Springfield politicians had a candidate of their own for United States
senator in the person of Abraham Lincoln.[678]

The action of the Democratic State convention in April closed the door
to any reconciliation with the Buchanan administration. Douglas
received an unqualified indorsement. The Cincinnati platform was
declared to be "the only authoritative exposition of Democratic
doctrine." No power on earth except a similar national convention had
a right "to change or interpolate that platform, or to prescribe new
or different tests." By sound party doctrine the Lecompton
constitution ought to be "submitted to the direct vote of the actual
inhabitants of Kansas at a fair election."[679] Could any words have
been more explicit? The administration responded by a merciless
proscription of Douglas office-holders and by unremitting efforts to
create an opposition ticket. Under pressure from Washington,
conventions were held to nominate candidates for the various State
offices, with the undisguised purpose of dividing the Democratic vote
for senator.[680]

On the 16th of June, the Republicans of Illinois threw advice to the
winds and adopted the unusual course of naming Lincoln as "the first
and only choice of the Republicans of Illinois for the United States
Senate." It was an act of immense political significance. Not only did
it put in jeopardy the political life of Douglas, but it ended for all
time to come any coalition between his following and the Republican

The subsequent fame of Lincoln has irradiated every phase of his early
career. To his contemporaries in the year 1858, he was a lawyer of
recognized ability, an astute politician, and a frank aspirant for
national honors. Those who imagine him to have been an unambitious
soul, upon whom honors were thrust, fail to understand the Lincoln
whom Herndon, his partner, knew. Lincoln was a seasoned politician. He
had been identified with the old Whig organization; he had repeatedly
represented the Springfield district in the State legislature; and he
had served one term without distinction in Congress. Upon the passage
of the Kansas-Nebraska Act he had taken an active part in fusing the
opposing elements into the Republican party. His services to the new
party made him a candidate for the senatorship in 1855, and received
recognition in the national Republican convention of 1856, when he was
second on the list of those for whom the convention balloted for
Vice-president. He was not unknown to Republicans of the Northwest,
though he was not in any sense a national figure. Few men had a keener
insight into political conditions in Illinois. None knew better the
ins and outs of political campaigning in Illinois.

Withal, Lincoln was rated as a man of integrity. He had strong
convictions and the courage of his convictions. His generous instincts
made him hate slavery, while his antecedents prevented him from loving
the negro. His anti-slavery sentiments were held strongly in check by
his sound sense of justice. He had the temperament of a humanitarian
with the intellect of a lawyer. While not combative by nature, he
possessed the characteristic American trait of measuring himself by
the attainments of others. He was solicitous to match himself with
other men so as to prove himself at least their peer. Possessed of a
cause that enlisted the service of his heart as well as his head,
Lincoln was a strong advocate at the bar and a formidable opponent on
the stump. Douglas bore true witness to Lincoln's powers when he said,
on hearing of his nomination, "I shall have my hands full. He is the
strong man of his party--full of wit, facts, dates--and the best stump
speaker, with his droll ways and dry jokes, in the West. He is as
honest as he is shrewd; and if I beat him, my victory will be hardly

The nomination of Lincoln was so little a matter of surprise to him
and his friends, that at the close of the convention he was able to
address the delegates in a carefully prepared speech. Wishing to sound
a dominant note for the campaign, he began with these memorable words:

"If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we
could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far 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 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 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."[682]

All evidence, continued Lincoln, pointed to a design to make slavery
national. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, the popular indorsement of
Buchanan, and the Dred Scott decision, were so many parts of a plot.
Only one part was lacking; _viz._ another decision declaring it
unconstitutional for a State to exclude slavery. Then the fabric would
be complete for which Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James had each
wrought his separate piece with artful cunning. It was impossible not
to believe that these Democratic leaders had labored in concert. To
those who had urged that Douglas should be supported, Lincoln had only
this to say: Douglas could not oppose the advance of slavery, for he
did not care whether slavery was voted up or down. His avowed purpose
was to make the people care nothing about slavery. The Republican
cause must not be intrusted to its adventitious allies, but to its
undoubted friends.

A welcome that was truly royal awaited Douglas in Chicago. On his way
thither, he was met by a delegation which took him a willing captive
and conducted him on a special train to his destination. Along the
route there was every sign of popular enthusiasm. He entered the city
amid the booming of cannon; he was conveyed to his hotel in a
carriage drawn by six horses, under military escort; banners with
flattering inscriptions fluttered above his head; from balconies and
windows he heard the shouts of thousands.[683]

Even more flattering if possible was the immense crowd that thronged
around the Tremont House in the early evening to hear his promised
speech. Not only the area in front of the hotel, but the adjoining
streets were crowded. Illuminations and fireworks cast a lurid light
on the faces which were upturned to greet the "Defender of Popular
Sovereignty," as he appeared upon the balcony. A man of far less
vanity would have been moved by the scene. Just behind the speaker but
within the house, Lincoln was an attentive listener.[684] The presence
of his rival put Douglas on his mettle. He took in good part a rather
discourteous interruption by Lincoln, and referred to him in generous
terms, as "a kind, amiable, and intelligent gentleman, a good citizen,
and an honorable opponent."[685]

The address was in a somewhat egotistical vein--pardonably egotistical,
considering the extraordinary circumstances. Douglas could not refrain
from referring to his career since he had confronted that excited crowd
in Chicago eight years before, in defense of the compromise measures.
To his mind the events of those eight years had amply vindicated the
great principle of popular sovereignty. Knowing that he was in a
Republican stronghold, he dwelt with particular complacency upon the
manful way in which the Republican party had come to the support of
that principle, in the recent anti-Lecompton fight. It was this
fundamental right of self-government that he had championed through
good and ill report, all these years. It was this, and this alone,
which had governed his action in regard to the Lecompton fraud. It was
not because the Lecompton constitution was a slave constitution, but
because it was not the act and deed of the people of Kansas that he had
condemned it. "Whenever," said he, "you put a limitation upon the right
of a people to decide what laws they want, you have destroyed the
fundamental principle of self-government."

With Lincoln's house-divided-against-itself proposition, he took issue
unqualifiedly. "Mr. Lincoln asserts, as a fundamental principle of
this government, that there must be uniformity in the local laws and
domestic institutions of each and all the States of the Union, and he
therefore invites all the non-slaveholding States to band together,
organize as one body, and make war upon slavery in Kentucky, upon
slavery in Virginia, upon slavery in the Carolinas, upon slavery in
all of the slave-holding States in this Union, and to persevere in
that war until it shall be exterminated. He then notifies the
slave-holding States to stand together as a unit and make an
aggressive war upon the free States of this Union with a view of
establishing slavery in them all; of forcing it upon Illinois, of
forcing it upon New York, upon New England, and upon every other free
State, and that they shall keep up the warfare until it has been
formally established in them all. In other words, 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 continued relentlessly until the one or the
other shall be subdued, and all the States shall either become free or
become slave."[686]

But such uniformity in local institutions would be possible only by
blotting out State Sovereignty, by merging all the States in one
consolidated empire, and by vesting Congress with plenary power to
make all the police regulations, domestic and local laws, uniform
throughout the Republic. The framers of our government knew well
enough that differences in soil, in products, and in interests,
required different local and domestic regulations in each locality;
and they organized the Federal government on this fundamental

With Lincoln's other proposition Douglas also took issue. He refused
to enter upon any crusade against the Supreme Court. "I do not choose,
therefore, to go into any argument with Mr. Lincoln in reviewing the
various decisions which the Supreme Court has made, either upon the
Dred Scott case, or any other. I have no idea of appealing from the
decision of the Supreme Court upon a constitutional question to the
decision of a tumultuous town meeting."[688]

Neither could Douglas agree with his opponent in objecting to the
decision of the Supreme Court because it deprived the negro of the
rights, privileges, and immunities of citizenship, which pertained
only to the white race. Our government was founded on a white basis.
"It was made by the white man, for the benefit of the white man, to be
administered by white men." To be sure, a negro, an Indian, or any
other man of inferior race should be permitted to enjoy all the
rights, privileges, and immunities consistent with the safety of
society; but each State should decide for itself the nature and extent
of these rights.

On the next evening, Republican Chicago greeted its protagonist with
much the same demonstrations, as he took his place on the balcony from
which Douglas had spoken. Lincoln found the flaw in Douglas's armor at
the outset. "Popular sovereignty! Everlasting popular sovereignty!
What is popular sovereignty"? How could there be such a thing in the
original sense, now that the Supreme Court had decided that the people
in their territorial status might not prohibit slavery? And as for the
right of the people to frame a constitution, who had ever disputed
that right? But Lincoln, evidently troubled by Douglas's vehement
deductions from the house-divided-against-itself proposition, soon
fell back upon the defensive, where he was at a great disadvantage. He
was forced to explain that he did not favor a war by the North upon
the South for the extinction of slavery; nor a war by the South upon
the North for the nationalization of slavery. "I only said what I
expected would take place. I made a prediction only,--it may have been
a foolish one, perhaps. I did not even say that I desired that slavery
should be put in course of ultimate extinction. I do say so now,
however."[689] He _believed_ that slavery had endured, because until
the Nebraska Act the public mind had rested in the conviction that
slavery would ultimately disappear. In affirming that the opponents of
slavery would arrest its further extension, he only meant to say that
they would put it where the fathers originally placed it. He was not
in favor of interfering with slavery where it existed in the States.
As to the charge that he was inviting people to resist the Dred Scott
decision, Lincoln responded rather weakly--again laying himself open
to attack--"We mean to do what we can to have the court decide the
other way."[690]

Lincoln also betrayed his fear lest Douglas should draw Republican
votes. Knowing the strong anti-slavery sentiment of the region, he
asked when Douglas had shown anything but indifference on the subject
of slavery. Away with this quibbling about inferior races! "Let us
discard all these things and unite as one people throughout this land,
until we shall once more stand up declaring that all men are created

From Chicago Douglas journeyed like a conquering hero to Bloomington.
At every station crowds gathered to see his gaily decorated train and
to catch a glimpse of the famous senator. A platform car bearing a
twelve-pound gun was attached to the train and everywhere "popular
sovereignty," as the cannon was dubbed, heralded his arrival.[692] On
the evening of July 16th he addressed a large gathering in the open
air; and again he had among his auditors, Abraham Lincoln, who was hot
upon his trail.[693] The county and district in which Bloomington was
situated had once been strongly Whig; but was now as strongly
Republican. With the local conditions in mind, Douglas made an artful
plea for support. He gratefully acknowledged the aid of the
Republicans in the recent anti-Lecompton fight, and of that worthy
successor of the immortal Clay, John J. Crittenden of Kentucky. After
all, was it not a common principle for which they had been contending?
"My friends," said Douglas with engaging ingenuousness, "when I am
battling for a great principle, I want aid and support from whatever
quarter I can get it." Pity, then, that Republican politicians, in
order to defeat him, should form an alliance with Lecompton men and
thus betray the cause![694]

Douglas called attention to Lincoln's explanation of his
house-divided-against-itself argument. It still seemed to him to
invite a war of sections. Mr. Lincoln had said that he had no wish to
see the people _enter into_ the Southern States and interfere with
slavery: for his part, he was equally opposed to a sectional agitation
to control the institutions of other States.[695] Again, Mr. Lincoln
had said that he proposed, so far as in him lay, to secure a reversal
of the Dred Scott decision. How, asked Douglas, will he accomplish
this? There can be but one way: elect a Republican President who will
pack the bench with Republican justices. Would a court so constituted
command respect?[696]

As to the effect of the Dred Scott decision upon slavery in the
Territories, Douglas had only this to say: "With or without that
decision, slavery will go just where the people want it, and not one
inch further." "Hence, if the people of a Territory want slavery, they
will encourage it by passing affirmatory laws, and the necessary
police regulations, patrol laws, and slave code; if they do not want
it they will withhold that legislation, and by withholding it slavery
is as dead as if it was prohibited by a constitutional prohibition,
especially if, in addition, their legislation is unfriendly, as it
would be if they were opposed to it. They could pass such local laws
and police regulations as would drive slavery out in one day, or one
hour, if they were opposed to it, and therefore, so far as the
question of slavery in the Territories is concerned, so far as the
principle of popular sovereignty is concerned, in its practical
operation, it matters not how the Dred Scott case may be decided with
reference to the Territories."[697]

The closing words of the speech approached dangerously near to bathos.
Douglas pictured himself standing beside the deathbed of Clay and
pledging his life to the advocacy of the great principle expressed in
the compromise measures of 1850, and later in the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Strangely enough he had given the same pledge to "the god-like
Webster."[698] This filial reverence for Clay and Webster, whom
Douglas had fought with all the weapons of partisan warfare, must have
puzzled those Whigs in his audience who were guileless enough to
accept such statements at their face value.

Devoted partisans accompanied Douglas to Springfield, on the following
day. In spite of the frequent downpours of rain and the sultry
atmosphere, their enthusiasm never once flagged. On board the same
train, surrounded by good-natured enemies, was Lincoln, who was also
to speak at the capital.[699] Douglas again found a crowd awaiting
him. He had much the same things to say. Perhaps his arraignment of
Lincoln's policy was somewhat more severe, but he turned the edges of
his thrusts by a courteous reference to his opponent, "with whom he
anticipated no personal collision." For the first time he alluded to
Lincoln's charge of conspiracy, but only to remark casually, "If Mr.
Lincoln deems me a conspirator of that kind, all I have to say is that
I do not think so badly of the President of the United States, and the
Supreme Court of the United States, the highest judicial tribunal on
earth, as to believe that they were capable in their actions and
decision of entering into political intrigues for partisan

Meantime Lincoln, addressing a Republican audience, was relating his
recent experiences in the enemy's camp. Believing that he had
discovered the line of attack, he sought to fortify his position. He
did not contemplate the abolition of State legislatures, nor any such
radical policy, any more than the fathers of the Republic did, when
they sought to check the spread of slavery by prohibiting it in the
Territories.[701] He did not propose to resist the Dred Scott decision
except as a rule of political action.[702] Here in Sangamon County, he
was somewhat less insistent upon negro equality. The negro was not the
equal of the white man in all respects, to be sure; "still, in the
right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned,
he is the equal of every other man, white or black."[703]

As matters stood, Douglas had the advantage of Lincoln, since with his
national prominence and his great popularity, he was always sure of
an audience, and could reply as he chose to the attacks of his
antagonist. Lincoln felt that he must come to close terms with Douglas
and extort from him admissions which would discredit him with
Republicans. With this end in view, Lincoln suggested that they
"divide time, and address the same audiences the present
canvass."[704] It was obviously to Douglas's interest to continue the
campaign as he had begun. He had already mapped out an extensive
itinerary. He therefore replied that he could not agree to such an
arrangement, owing to appointments already made and to the possibility
of a third candidate with whom Lincoln might make common cause. He
intimated, rather unfairly, that Lincoln had purposely waited until he
was already bound by his appointments. However, he would accede to the
proposal so far as to meet Lincoln in a joint discussion in each
congressional district except the second and sixth, in which both had
already spoken.[705]

It was not such a letter as one would expect from a generous opponent.
But politics was no pastime to the writer. He was sparring now in
deadly earnest, for every advantage. Not unnaturally Lincoln resented
the imputation of unfairness; but he agreed to the proposal of seven
joint debates. Douglas then named the times and places; and Lincoln
agreed to the terms, rather grudgingly, for he would have but three
openings and closings to Douglas's four.[706] Still, as he had
followed Douglas in Chicago, he had no reason to complain.

The next three months may be regarded as a prolonged debate,
accentuated by the seven joint discussions. The rival candidates
traversed much the same territory, and addressed much the same
audiences on successive days. At times, chance made them
fellow-passengers on the same train or steamboat. Douglas had already
begun his itinerary, when Lincoln's last note reached him in Piatt
County.[707] He had just spoken at Clinton, in De Witt County, and
again he had found Lincoln in the audience.

No general ever planned a military campaign with greater regard to the
topography of the enemy's country, than Douglas plotted his campaign
in central Illinois. For it was in the central counties that the
election was to be won or lost. The Republican strength lay in the
upper, northern third of the State; the Democratic strength, in the
southern third. The doubtful area lay between Ottawa on the north and
Belleville on the south; Oquawka on the northwest and Paris on the
east. Only twice did Douglas make any extended tour outside this area:
once to meet his appointment with Lincoln at Freeport; and once to
engage in the third joint debate at Jonesboro.

The first week in August found Douglas speaking at various points
along the Illinois River to enthusiastic crowds. Lincoln followed
closely after, bent upon weakening the force of his opponent's
arguments by lodging an immediate demurrer against them. On the whole,
Douglas drew the larger crowds; but it was observed that Lincoln's
audiences increased as he proceeded northward. Ottawa was the
objective point for both travelers, for there was to be held the first
joint debate on August 21st.

An enormous crowd awaited them. From sunrise to mid-day men, women,
and children had poured into town, in every sort of conveyance. It was
a typical midsummer day in Illinois. The prairie roads were thoroughly
baked by the sun, and the dust rose, like a fine powder, from beneath
the feet of horses and pedestrians, enveloping all in blinding clouds.
A train of seventeen cars had brought ardent supporters of Douglas
from Chicago. The town was gaily decked; the booming of cannon
resounded across the prairie; bands of music added to the excitement
of the occasion. The speakers were escorted to the public square by
two huge processions. So eager was the crowd that it was with much
difficulty, and no little delay, that Lincoln and Douglas, the
committee men, and the reporters, were landed on the platform.[708]

For the first time in the campaign, the rival candidates were placed
side by side. The crowd instinctively took its measure of the two men.
They presented a striking contrast:[709] Lincoln, tall, angular, and
long of limb; Douglas, short, almost dwarfed by comparison,
broad-shouldered and thick-chested. Lincoln was clad in a frock coat
of rusty black, which was evidently not made for his lank, ungainly
body. His sleeves did not reach his wrists by several inches, and his
trousers failed to conceal his huge feet. His long, sinewy neck
emerged from a white collar, drawn over a black tie. Altogether, his
appearance bordered upon the grotesque, and would have provoked mirth
in any other than an Illinois audience, which knew and respected the
man too well to mark his costume. Douglas, on the contrary, presented
a well-groomed figure. He wore a well-fitting suit of broadcloth; his
linen was immaculate; and altogether he had the appearance of a man of
the world whom fortune had favored.

The eyes of the crowd, however, sought rather the faces of the rival
candidates. Lincoln looked down upon them with eyes in which there was
an expression of sadness, not to say melancholy, until he lost himself
in the passion of his utterance. There was not a regular feature in
his face. The deep furrows that seamed his countenance bore
unmistakable witness to a boyhood of grim poverty and grinding toil.
Douglas surveyed the crowd from beneath his shaggy brows, with bold,
penetrating gaze. Every feature of his face bespoke power. The
deep-set eyes; the dark, almost sinister, line between them; the mouth
with its tightly-drawn lips; the deep lines on his somewhat puffy
cheeks--all gave the impression of a masterful nature, accustomed to
bear down opposition. As men observed his massive brow with its mane
of abundant, dark hair; his strong neck; his short, compact body; they
instinctively felt that here was a personality not lightly to be
encountered. He was "the very embodiment of force, combativeness, and
staying power."[710]

When Douglas, by agreement, opened the debate, he was fully conscious
that he was addressing an audience which was in the main hostile to
him. With the instinct of a born stump speaker, he sought first to
find common ground with his hearers. Appealing to the history of
parties, he pointed out the practical agreement of both Whig and
Democratic parties on the slavery question down to 1854. It was when,
in accordance with the Compromise of 1850, he brought in the
Kansas-Nebraska bill, that Lincoln and Trumbull entered into an
agreement to dissolve the old parties in Illinois and to form an
Abolition party under the pseudonym "Republican." The terms of the
alliance were that Lincoln should have Senator Shields' place in the
Senate, and that Trumbull should have Douglas's, when his term should
expire.[711] History, thus interpreted, made not Douglas, but his
opponent, the real agitator in State politics.

Douglas then read from the first platform of the Black Republicans.
"My object in reading these resolutions," he said, "was to put the
question to Abraham Lincoln this day, whether he now stands and will
stand by each article in that creed and carry it out. I desire to know
whether Mr. Lincoln to-day stands, as he did in 1854, in favor of the
unconditional repeal of the Fugitive Slave law. I desire him to answer
whether he stands pledged to-day, as he did in 1854, against the
admission of any more slave States into the Union, even if the people
want them. I want to know whether he stands pledged against the
admission of a new State into the Union with such a Constitution as
the people of that State may see fit to make. I want to know whether
he stands to-day pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District
of Columbia. I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the
prohibition of the slave trade between the different States. I desire
to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit slavery in all the
Territories of the United States, North as well as South of the
Missouri Compromise line. I desire him to answer whether he is opposed
to the acquisition of any more territory, unless slavery is prohibited

In all this there was a rude vehemence and coarse insinuation that was
regrettable; yet Douglas sought to soften the asperity of his manner,
by adding that he did not mean to be disrespectful or unkind to Mr.
Lincoln. He had known Mr. Lincoln for twenty-five years. While he was
a school-teacher, Lincoln was a flourishing grocery-keeper. Lincoln
was always more successful in business; Lincoln always did well
whatever he undertook; Lincoln could beat any of the boys wrestling or
running a foot-race; Lincoln could ruin more liquor than all the boys
of the town together. When in Congress, Lincoln had distinguished
himself by his opposition to the Mexican War, taking the side of the
enemy against his own country.[713] If this disparagement of an
opponent seems mean and ungenerous, let it be remembered that in the
rough give-and-take of Illinois politics, hard hitting was to be
expected. Lincoln had invited counter-blows by first charging Douglas
with conspiracy. No mere reading of cold print can convey the virile
energy with which Douglas spoke. The facial expression, the animated
gesture, the toss of the head, and the stamp of the foot, the full,
resonant voice--all are wanting.

To a man of Lincoln's temperament, this vigorous invective was
indescribably irritating. Rather unwisely he betrayed his vexation in
his first words. His manner was constrained. He seemed awkward and ill
at ease, but as he warmed to his task, his face became more animated,
he recovered the use of his arms, and he pointed his remarks with
forceful gestures. His voice, never pleasant, rose to a shrill treble
in moments of excitement. After the familiar manner of Western
speakers of that day, he was wont to bend his knees and then rise to
his full height with a jerk, to enforce some point.[714] Yet with all
his ungraceful mannerisms, Lincoln held his hearers, impressing most
men with a sense of the honesty of his convictions.

Instead of replying categorically to Douglas's questions, Lincoln read
a long extract from a speech which he had made in 1854, to show his
attitude then toward the Fugitive Slave Act. He denied that he had had
anything to do with the resolutions which had been read. He believed
that he was not even in Springfield at the time when they were
adopted.[715] As for the charge that he favored the social and
political equality of the black and white races, he said, "Anything
that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political equality
with the negro, is but a specious and fantastic arrangement of words,
by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chestnut horse.... I
have no purpose to introduce political and social equality between the
white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the
two, which, in my judgment, will probably forever forbid their living
together upon the footing of perfect equality ... notwithstanding all
this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to
all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of
Independence,--the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness."[716] Slavery had always been, and would always be, "an
apple of discord and an element of division in the house." He
disclaimed all intention of making war upon Southern institutions, yet
he was still firm in the belief that the public mind would not be easy
until slavery was put where the fathers left it. He reminded his
hearers that Douglas had said nothing to clear himself from the
suspicion of having been party to a conspiracy to nationalize slavery.
Judge Douglas was not always so ready as now to yield obedience to
judicial decisions, as anyone might see who chose to inquire how he
earned his title.[717]

In his reply, Douglas endeavored to refresh Lincoln's memory in
respect to the resolutions. They were adopted while he was in
Springfield, for it was the season of the State Fair, when both had
spoken at the Capitol. He had not charged Mr. Lincoln with having
helped to frame these resolutions, but with having been a responsible
leader of the party which had adopted them as its platform. Was Mr.
Lincoln trying to dodge the questions? Douglas refused to allow
himself to be put upon the defensive in the matter of the alleged
conspiracy, since Lincoln had acknowledged that he did not know it to
be true. He would brand it as a lie and let Lincoln prove it if he

At the conclusion of the debate, two young farmers, in their exuberant
enthusiasm, rushed forward, seized Lincoln in spite of his
remonstrances, and carried him off upon their stalwart shoulders. "It
was really a ludicrous sight," writes an eye-witness,[719] "to see
the grotesque figure holding frantically to the heads of his
supporters, with his legs dangling from their shoulders, and his
pantaloons pulled up so as to expose his underwear almost to his
knees." Douglas was not slow in using this incident to the
discomfiture of his opponent. "Why," he said at Joliet, "the very
notice that I was going to take him down to Egypt made him tremble in
his knees so that he had to be carried from the platform. He laid up
seven days, and in the meantime held a consultation with his political
physicians,"[720] etc. Strangely enough, Lincoln with all his sense of
humor took this badinage seriously, and accused Douglas of telling a

The impression prevailed that Douglas had cornered Lincoln by his
adroit use of the Springfield resolutions of 1854. Within a week,
however, an editorial in the Chicago _Press and Tribune_ reversed the
popular verdict, by pronouncing the resolutions a forgery. The
Republicans were jubilant. "The Little Dodger" had cornered himself.
The Democrats were chagrined. Douglas was thoroughly nonplussed. He
had written to Lanphier for precise information regarding these
resolutions, and he had placed implicit confidence in the reply of his
friend. It now transpired that they were the work of a local
convention in Kane County.[722] Could any blunder have been more

When the contestants met at Freeport, far in the solid Republican
counties of the North, Lincoln was ready with his answers to the
questions propounded by Douglas at Ottawa. In most respects Lincoln
was clear and explicit. While not giving an unqualified approval of
the Fugitive Slave Law, he was not in favor of its repeal; while
believing that Congress possessed the power to abolish slavery in the
District of Columbia, he favored abolition only on condition that it
should be gradual, acceptable to a majority of the voters of the
District, and compensatory to unwilling owners; he would favor the
abolition of the slave-trade between the States only upon similar
conservative principles; he believed it, however, to be the right and
duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the Territories; he was
not opposed to the honest acquisition of territory, provided that it
would not aggravate the slavery question. The really crucial
questions, Lincoln did not face so unequivocally. Was he opposed to
the admission of more slave States? Would he oppose the admission of a
new State with such a constitution as the people of that State should
see fit to make?

Lincoln answered hesitatingly: "In regard to the other question, of
whether I am pledged to the admission of any more slave States into
the Union, I state to you very frankly that I would be exceedingly
sorry ever to be put in a position of having to pass upon that
question. I should be exceedingly glad to know that there would never
be another slave State admitted into the Union; but I must add, that
if slavery shall be kept out of the Territories during the territorial
existence of any one given Territory, and then the people shall,
having a fair chance and a clear field, when they come to adopt the
Constitution, do such an extraordinary thing as to adopt a slave
Constitution, uninfluenced by the actual presence of the institution
among them, I see no alternative, if we own the country, but to admit
them into the Union."[723]

It was now Lincoln's turn to catechise his opponent. He had prepared
four questions, the second of which caused his friends some
misgivings.[724] It read: "Can the people of a United States
Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the
United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation
of a State Constitution?"

Lincoln knew well enough that Douglas held to the power of the people
practically to exclude slavery, regardless of the decision of the
Supreme Court; Douglas had said as much in his hearing at Bloomington.
What he desired to extort from Douglas was his opinion of the legality
of such action in view of the Dred Scott decision. Should Douglas
answer in the negative, popular sovereignty would become an empty
phrase; should he answer in the affirmative, he would put himself, so
Lincoln calculated, at variance with Southern Democrats, who claimed
that the people of a Territory were now inhibited from any such power
over slave property. In the latter event, Lincoln proposed to give
such publicity to Douglas's reply as to make any future evasion or
retraction impossible.[725]

Douglas faced the critical question without the slightest hesitation.
"It matters not what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to
the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into a
Territory under the Constitution, the people have the lawful means to
introduce it or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery
cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by
local police regulations. Those police regulations can only be
established by the local legislature; and if the people are opposed to
slavery, they will elect representatives to that body who will by
unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the introduction of it into
their midst. If, on the contrary, they are for it, their legislation
will favor its extension. Hence, no matter what the decision of the
Supreme Court may be on that abstract question, still the right of the
people to make a slave Territory or a free Territory is perfect and
complete under the Nebraska Bill. I hope Mr. Lincoln deems my answer
satisfactory on that point"[726]

The other three questions involved less risk for the advocate of
popular sovereignty. He would vote to admit Kansas without the
requisite population for representation in Congress, if the people
should frame an unobjectionable constitution. He would prefer a
general rule on this point, but since Congress had decided that Kansas
had enough people to form a slave State, she surely had enough to
constitute a free State. He scouted the imputation in the third
question, that the Supreme Court could so far violate the Constitution
as to decide that a State could not exclude slavery from its own
limits. He would always vote for the acquisition of new territory,
when it was needed, irrespective of the question of slavery.[727]

Smarting under Lincoln's animadversions respecting the Springfield
resolutions, Douglas explained his error by quoting from a copy of the
Illinois _State Register_, which had printed the resolutions as the
work of the convention at the capital. He gave notice that he would
investigate the matter, "when he got down to Springfield." At all
events there was ample proof that the resolutions were a faithful
exposition of Republican doctrine in the year 1854. Douglas then read
similar resolutions adopted by a convention in Rockford County. One
Turner, who was acting as one of the moderators, interrupted him at
this point, to say that he had drawn those very resolutions and that
they were the Republican creed exactly. "And yet," exclaimed Douglas
triumphantly, "and yet Lincoln denies that he stands on them. Mr.
Turner says that the creed of the Black Republican party is the
admission of no more slave States, and yet Mr. Lincoln declares that
he would not like to be placed in a position where he would have to
vote for them. All I have to say to friend Lincoln is, that I do not
think there is much danger of his being placed in such a position....
I propose, out of mere kindness, to relieve him from any such

As he continued, Douglas grew offensively denunciatory. His opponents
were invariably Black Republicans; Lincoln was the ally of rank
Abolitionists like Giddings and Fred Douglass; of course those who
believed in political and social equality for blacks and whites would
vote for Lincoln. Lincoln had found fault with the resolutions because
they were not adopted on the right spot. Lincoln and his friends were
great on "spots." Lincoln had opposed the Mexican War because
American blood was not shed on American soil in the right spot.
Trumbull and Lincoln were like two decoy ducks which lead the flock
astray. Ambition, personal ambition, had led to the formation of the
Black Republican party. Lincoln and his friends were now only trying
to secure what Trumbull had cheated them out of in 1855, when the
senatorship fell to Trumbull. Under this savage attack the crowd grew
restive. As Douglas repeated the epithet "Black" Republican, he was
interrupted by indignant cries of "White," "White." But Douglas
shouted back defiantly, "I wish to remind you that while Mr. Lincoln
was speaking there was not a Democrat vulgar and blackguard enough to
interrupt him," and browbeat his hearers into quiet again.[729]

Realizing, perhaps, the immense difficulty of exposing the fallacy of
Douglas's reply to his questions, in the few moments at his disposal,
Lincoln did not refer to the crucial point. He contented himself with
a defense of his own consistency. His best friends were dispirited,
when the half-hour ended. They could not shake off the impression that
Douglas had saved himself from defeat by his adroit answers to
Lincoln's interrogatories.[730]

The next joint debate occurred nearly three weeks later down in Egypt.
By slow stages, speaking incessantly at all sorts of meetings, Douglas
and Lincoln made their several ways through the doubtful central
counties to Jonesboro in Union County. This was the enemy's country
for Lincoln; and by reason of the activities of United States Marshal
Dougherty, a Buchanan appointee, the county was scarcely less hostile
to Douglas. The meeting was poorly attended. Those who listened to the
speakers were chary of applause and appeared politically

Douglas opened the debate by a wild, unguarded appeal to partisan
prejudices. Knowing his hearers, he was personally vindictive in his
references to Black Republicans in general and to Lincoln in
particular. He reiterated his stock arguments, giving new vehemence to
his charge of corrupt bargain between Trumbull and Lincoln by quoting
Matheny, a Republican and "Mr. Lincoln's especial and confidential
friend for the last twenty years."[732]

Lincoln begged leave to doubt the authenticity of this new evidence,
in view of the little episode at Ottawa, concerning the Springfield
resolutions. At all events the whole story was untrue, and he had
already declared it to be such.[733] Why should Douglas persist in
misrepresenting him? Brushing aside these lesser matters, however,
Lincoln addressed himself to what had now come to be known as
Douglas's Freeport doctrine. "I hold," said he, "that the proposition
that slavery cannot enter a new country without police regulations is
historically false.... There is enough vigor in slavery to plant
itself in a new country even against unfriendly legislation. It takes
not only law but the enforcement of law to keep it out." Moreover, the
decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case had created
constitutional obligations. Now that the right of property in slaves
was affirmed by the Constitution, according to the Court, how could a
member of a territorial legislature, who had taken the oath to
support the Constitution, refuse to give his vote for laws necessary
to establish slave property? And how could a member of Congress keep
his oath and withhold the necessary protection to slave property in
the Territories?[734]

Of course Lincoln was well aware that Douglas held that the Court had
decided only the question of jurisdiction in the Dred Scott case; and
that all else was a mere _obiter dictum_. Nevertheless, "the Court did
pass its opinion.... If they did not decide, they showed what they
were ready to decide whenever the matter was before them. They used
language to this effect: That inasmuch as Congress itself could not
exercise such a power [_i.e._, pass a law prohibiting slavery in the
Territories], it followed as a matter of course that it could not
authorize a Territorial Government to exercise it; for the Territorial
Legislature can do no more than Congress could do."[735]

The only answer of Douglas to this trenchant analysis was a reiterated
assertion: "I assert that under the Dred Scott decision [taking
Lincoln's view of that decision] you cannot maintain slavery a day in
a Territory where there is an unwilling people and unfriendly
legislation. If the people are opposed to it, our right is a barren,
worthless, useless right; and if they are for it, they will support
and encourage it."[736]

Douglas made much of Lincoln's evident unwillingness to commit himself
on the question of admitting more slave States. In various ways he
sought to trip his adversary, believing that Lincoln had pledged
himself to his Abolitionist allies in 1855 to vote against the
admission of more slave States, if he should be elected senator. "Let
me tell Mr. Lincoln that his party in the northern part of the State
hold to that Abolition platform [no more slave States], and if they do
not in the South and in the center, they present the extraordinary
spectacle of a house-divided-against-itself."[737]

Douglas turned the edge of Lincoln's thrust at the duties of
legislators under the Dred Scott decision by saying, "Well, if you are
not going to resist the decision, if you obey it, and do not intend to
array mob law against the constituted authorities, then, according to
your own statement, you will be a perjured man if you do not vote to
establish slavery in these Territories."[738] And it did not save
Lincoln from the horns of this uncomfortable dilemma to repeat that he
did not accept the Dred Scott decision as a rule for political action,
for he had just emphasized the moral obligation of obeying the law of
the Constitution.

From the darkness of Egypt, Douglas and Lincoln journeyed northward
toward Charleston in Coles County, where the fourth debate was to be
held. Both paused _en route_ to visit the State Fair, then in full
blast at Centralia. Curious crowds followed them around the fair
grounds, deeming the rival candidates quite as worthy of close
scrutiny as the other exhibits.[739] Ten miles from Charleston, they
left the train to be escorted by rival processions along the dusty
highway to their destination. From all the country-side people had
come to town to cheer on their respective champions.[740] This
twenty-fifth district, comprising Coles and Moultrie counties, had
been carried by the Democrats in 1856, but was now regarded as
doubtful. The uncertainty added piquancy to the debate.

It was Lincoln's turn to open the joust. At the outset he tried to
allay misapprehensions regarding his attitude toward negro equality.
"I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of
bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the
white and black races; that 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; and I will say in
addition to this, that 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 say upon this occasion 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."[741] This was by far
the most explicit statement that he had yet made on the hazardous

Lincoln then turned upon his opponent, with more aggressiveness than,
he had hitherto exhibited, to drive home the charge which Trumbull had
made earlier in the campaign. Prompted by Trumbull, probably, Lincoln
reviewed the shadowy history of the Toombs bill and Douglas's still
more enigmatical connection with it. The substance of the indictment
was, that Douglas had suppressed that part of the original bill which
provided for a popular vote on the constitution to be drafted by the
Kansas convention. In replying to Trumbull, Douglas had damaged his
own case by denying that the Toombs bill had ever contained such a
provision. Lincoln proved the contrary by the most transparent
testimony, convicting Douglas not only of the original offense but of
an untruth in connection with it.[742]

This was not a vague charge of conspiracy which could be treated with
contempt, but an indictment, accompanied by circumstantial evidence.
While a dispassionate examination of the whole incident will acquit
Douglas of any part in a plot to prevent the fair adoption of a
constitution by the people of Kansas, yet he certainly took a most
unfortunate and prejudicial mode of defending himself.[743] His
personal retorts were so vindictive and his attack upon Trumbull so
full of venom, that his words did not carry conviction to the minds of
his hearers. It was a matter of common observation that Democrats
seemed ill at ease after the debate.[744] "Judge Douglas is playing
cuttle-fish," remarked Lincoln, noting with satisfaction the very
evident discomfiture of his opponent, "a small species of fish that
has no mode of defending itself when pursued except by throwing out a
black fluid, which makes the water so dark the enemy cannot see it,
and thus it escapes."[745]

Douglas, however, did his best to recover his ground by accusing
Lincoln of shifting his principles as he passed from the northern
counties to Egypt; the principles of his party in the north were
"jet-black," in the center, "a decent mulatto," and in lower Egypt
"almost white." Lincoln then dared him to point out any difference
between his speeches. Blows now fell thick and fast, both speakers
approaching dangerously near the limit of parliamentary language.
Reverting to his argument that slavery must be put in the course of
ultimate extinction, Lincoln made this interesting qualification: "I
do not mean that when it takes a turn toward ultimate extinction it
will be in a day, nor in a year, nor in two years. I do not suppose
that in the most peaceful way ultimate extinction would occur in less
than a hundred years at least; but that it will occur in the best way
for both races, in God's own good time, I have no doubt."[746]

Douglas was now feeling the full force of the opposition within his
own party. The Republican newspapers of the State had seized upon his
Freeport speech to convince the South and the administration that he
was false to their creed. The Washington _Union_ had from the first
denounced him as a renegade, with whom no self-respecting Democrat
would associate.[747] Slidell was active in Illinois, spending money
freely to defeat him.[748] The Danites in the central counties plotted
incessantly to weaken his following. Daniel S. Dickinson of New York
sent "a Thousand Greetings" to a mass-meeting of Danites in
Springfield,--a liberal allowance, commented some Douglasite, as each
delegate would receive about ten greetings.[749] Yet the dimensions of
this movement were not easily ascertained. The declination of
Vice-President Breckinridge to come to the aid of Douglas was a rebuff
not easily laughed down, though to be sure, he expressed a guarded
preference for Douglas over Lincoln. The coolness of Breckinridge was
in a measure offset by the friendliness of Senator Crittenden, who
refused to aid Lincoln, because he believed Douglas's re-election
"necessary as a rebuke to the administration and a vindication of the
great cause of popular rights and public justice."[750] The most
influential Republican papers in the East gave Lincoln tardy support,
with the exception of the New York _Times_.[751]

Unquestionably Douglas drew upon resources which Lincoln could not
command. The management of the Illinois Central Railroad was naturally
friendly toward him, though there is no evidence that it countenanced
any illegitimate use of influence on his behalf. If Douglas enjoyed
special train service, which Lincoln did not, it was because he drew
upon funds that exceeded Lincoln's modest income. How many thousands
of dollars Douglas devoted from his own exchequer to his campaign,
can now only be conjectured. In all probability, he spent all that
remained from the sale of his real estate in Chicago, and more which
he borrowed in New York by mortgaging his other holdings in Cook
County.[752] And not least among his assets was the constant
companionship of Mrs. Douglas, whose tact, grace, and beauty placated
feelings which had been ruffled by the rude vigor of "the Little

When the rivals met three weeks later at Galesburg, they were disposed
to drop personalities. Indeed, both were aware that they were about to
address men and women who demanded an intelligent discussion of the
issues of the hour. Lincoln had the more sympathetic hearing, for Knox
County was consistently Republican; and the town with its academic
atmosphere and New England traditions shared his hostility to slavery.
Vast crowds braved the cold, raw winds of the October day to listen
for three hours to this debate.[754] From a platform on the college
campus, Douglas looked down somewhat defiantly upon his hearers,
though his words were well-chosen and courteous. The circumstances
were much the same as at Ottawa; and he spoke in much the same vein.
He rang the changes upon his great fundamental principle; he defended
his course in respect to Lecomptonism; he denounced the Republican
party as a sectional organization whose leaders were bent upon
"outvoting, conquering, governing, and controlling the South."
Douglas laid great stress upon this sectional aspect of Republicanism,
which made its southward extension impossible. "Not only is this
Republican party unable to proclaim its principles alike in the North
and in the South, in the free States and in the slave States, but it
cannot even proclaim them in the same forms and give them the same
strength and meaning in all parts of the same State. My friend Lincoln
finds it extremely difficult to manage a debate in the center part of
the State, where there is a mixture of men from the North and the

Here Douglas paused to read from Lincoln's speeches at Chicago and at
Charleston, and to ask his hearers to reconcile the conflicting
statements respecting negro equality. He pronounced Lincoln's
doctrine, that the negro and the white man are made equal by the
Declaration of Independence and Divine Providence, "a monstrous

Lincoln protested that nothing was farther from his purpose than to
"advance hypocritical and deceptive and contrary views in different
portions of the country." As for the charge of sectionalism, Judge
Douglas was himself fast becoming sectional, for his speeches no
longer passed current south of the Ohio as they had once done.
"Whatever may be the result of this ephemeral contest between Judge
Douglas and myself, I see the day rapidly approaching when his pill of
sectionalism, which he has been thrusting down the throats of
Republicans for years past, will be crowded down his own throat."[756]

And Lincoln again scored on his opponent, when he pointed out that
his political doctrine rested upon the major premise, that there was
no wrong in slavery. "If you will take the Judge's speeches, and
select the short and pointed sentences expressed by him,--as his
declaration that he 'don't care whether slavery is voted up or
down'--you will see at once that this is perfectly logical, if you do
not admit that slavery is wrong.... Judge Douglas declares that if any
community wants slavery they have a right to have it. He can say that
logically, if he says that there is no wrong in slavery; but if you
admit that there is a wrong in it, he cannot logically say that
anybody has a right to do wrong."[757]

Those who now read these memorable debates dis-passionately, will
surely acquit Lincoln of inconsistency in his attitude toward the
negro. His speech at Charleston supplements the speech at Chicago; at
Galesburg, he made an admirable re-statement of his position.
Nevertheless, there was a marked difference in point of emphasis
between his utterances in Northern and in Southern Illinois. Even the
casual reader will detect subtle omissions which the varying character
of his audience forced upon Lincoln. In Chicago he said nothing about
the physical inferiority of the negro; he said nothing about the
equality of the races in the Declaration of Independence, when he
spoke at Charleston. Among men of anti-slavery leanings, he had much
to say about the moral wrong of slavery; in the doubtful counties,
Lincoln was solicitous that he should not be understood as favoring
social and political equality between whites and blacks.

Feeling keenly this diplomatic shifting of emphasis, Douglas persisted
in accusing Lincoln of inconsistency: "He has one set of principles
for the Abolition counties and another set for the counties opposed to
Abolitionism." If Lincoln had said in Coles County what he has to-day
said in old Knox, Douglas complained, "it would have settled the
question between us in that doubtful county."[758] And in this Douglas
was probably correct.

At Quincy, Douglas was in his old bailiwick. Three times the Democrats
of this district had sent him to Congress; and though the bounds of
the congressional district had since been changed, Adams County was
still Democratic by a safe majority. Among the people who greeted the
speakers, however, were many old-time Whigs, for whose special benefit
the Republicans of the city carried on a pole, at the head of their
procession, a live raccoon. With a much keener historic sense, the
Democrats bore aloft a dead raccoon, suspended by its tail.[759]

Lincoln again harked back to his position that slavery was "a moral, a
social, and a political wrong" which the Republican party proposed to
prevent from growing any larger; and that "the leading man--I think I
may do my friend Judge Douglas the honor of calling him
such--advocating the present Democratic policy, never himself says it
is wrong."[760]

The consciousness that he was made to seem morally obtuse, cut Douglas
to the quick. Even upon his tough constitution this prolonged campaign
was beginning to tell. His voice was harsh and broken; and he gave
unmistakable signs of nervous irritability, brought on by physical
fatigue. When he rose to reply to Lincoln, his manner was offensively
combative. At the outset, he referred angrily to Lincoln's "gross
personalities and base insinuations."[761] In his references to the
Springfield resolutions and to his mistake, or rather the mistake of
his friends at the capital, he was particularly denunciatory. "When I
make a mistake," he boasted, "as an honest man, I correct it without
being asked to, but when he, Lincoln, makes a false charge, he sticks
to it and never corrects it."[762]

But Douglas was too old a campaigner to lose control of himself, and
no doubt the rude charge and counter-charge were prompted less by
personal ill-will than by controversial exigencies. Those who have
conceived Douglas as the victim of deep-seated and abiding resentment
toward Lincoln, forget the impulsive nature of the man. There is not
the slightest evidence that Lincoln took these blows to heart. He had
himself dealt many a vigorous blow in times past. It was part of the

Douglas found fault with Lincoln's answers to the Ottawa questions: "I
ask you again, Lincoln, will you vote to admit New Mexico, when she
has the requisite population with such a constitution as her people
adopt, either recognizing slavery or not, as they shall determine!" He
was well within the truth when he asserted that Lincoln's answer had
been purposely evasive and equivocal, "having no reference to any
territory now in existence."[763] Of Lincoln's Republican policy of
confining slavery within its present limits, by prohibiting it in the
Territories, he said, "When he gets it thus confined, and surrounded,
so that it cannot spread, the natural laws of increase will go on
until the negroes will be so plenty that they cannot live on the soil.
He will hem them in until starvation seizes them, and by starving them
to death, he will put slavery in the course of ultimate
extinction."[764] A silly argument which Douglas's wide acquaintance
with Southern conditions flatly contradicted and should have kept him
from repeating.

To the charge of moral obliquity on the slavery question, Douglas made
a dignified and worthy reply. "I hold that the people of the
slave-holding 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 within their own limits."[765]

On the following day both Lincoln and Douglas took passage on a river
steamer for Alton. The county of Madison had once been Whig in its
political proclivities. In the State legislature it was now
represented by two representatives and a senator who were Native
Americans; and in the present campaign, the county was classed as
doubtful. In Alton and elsewhere there was a large German vote which
was likely to sway the election.

Douglas labored under a physical disadvantage. His voice was painful
to hear, while Lincoln's betrayed no sign of fatigue.[766] Both fell
into the argument _ad hominem_. Lincoln advocated holding the
Territories open to "free white people" the world over--to "Hans,
Baptiste, and Patrick." Douglas contended that the equality referred
to in the Declaration of Independence, was the equality of white
men--"men of European birth and European descent." Both conjured with
the revered name of Clay. Douglas persistently referred to Lincoln as
an Abolitionist, knowing that his auditors had "strong sympathies
southward," as Lincoln shrewdly guessed; while Lincoln sought to
unmask that "false statesmanship that undertakes to build up a system
of policy upon the basis of caring nothing about the very thing that
everybody does care the most about."[767]

Douglas made a successful appeal to the sympathy of the crowd, when he
said of his conduct in the Lecompton fight, "Most of the men who
denounced my course on the Lecompton question objected to it, not
because I was not right, but because they thought it expedient at that
time, for the sake of keeping the party together, to do wrong. I never
knew the Democratic party to violate any one of its principles, out of
policy or expediency, that it did not pay the debt with sorrow. There
is no safety or success for our party unless we always do right, and
trust the consequences to God and the people. I chose not to depart
from principle for the sake of expediency on the Lecompton question,
and I never intend to do it on that or any other question."[768]

Both at Quincy and at Alton, Douglas paid his respects to the
"contemptible crew" who were trying to break up the party and defeat
him. At first he had avoided direct attacks upon the administration;
but the relentless persecution of the Washington _Union_ made him
restive. Lincoln derived great satisfaction from this intestine
warfare in the Democratic camp. "Go it, husband! Go it, bear!" he

In this last debate, both sought to summarize the issues. Said
Lincoln, "You may turn over everything in the Democratic policy from
beginning to end, ... it everywhere carefully excludes the idea that
there is anything wrong in it [slavery].

"That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this
country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be
silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles--right
and wrong--throughout the world.... I was glad to express my gratitude
at Quincy, and I re-express it here, to Judge Douglas,--_that he looks
to no end of the institution of slavery_. That will help the people to
see where the struggle really is."[769]

To the mind of Douglas, the issue presented itself in quite another
form. "He [Lincoln] says that he 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. If it chooses to keep
slavery forever, it is not my business, but its own; if it chooses to
abolish slavery, it is its own business,--not mine. 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 would not
endanger the perpetuity of this Union, I would not blot out the great
inalienable rights of the white men, for all the negroes that ever

With this encounter at Alton, the joint debates, but not the campaign
closed. Douglas continued to speak at various strategic points, in
spite of inclement weather and physical exhaustion, up to the eve of
the election.[771] The canvass had continued just a hundred days,
during which Douglas had made one hundred and thirty speeches.[772]
During the last weeks of the campaign, election canards designed to
injure Douglas were sedulously circulated, adding no little
uncertainty to the outcome in doubtful districts. The most damaging of
these stories seems to have emanated from Senator John Slidell of
Louisiana, whose midsummer sojourn in Illinois has already been noted.
A Chicago journal published the tale that Douglas's slaves in the
South were "the subjects of inhuman and disgraceful treatment--that
they were hired out to a factor at fifteen dollars per annum
each--that he, in turn, hired them out to others in lots, and that
they were ill-fed, over-worked, and in every way so badly treated that
they were spoken of in the neighborhood where they are held as a
disgrace to all slave-holders and the system they support." The
explicit denial of the story came from Slidell some weeks after the
election, when the slander had accomplished the desired purpose.[773]

All signs pointed to a heavy vote for both tickets. As the campaign
drew to a close, the excitement reached a pitch rarely equalled even
in presidential elections. Indeed, the total vote cast exceeded that
of 1856 by many thousands,--an increase that cannot be wholly
accounted for by the growth of population in these years.[774] The
Republican State ticket was elected by less than four thousand votes
over the Democratic ticket. The relative strength of the rival
candidates for the senatorship, however, is exhibited more fully in
the vote for the members of the lower house of the State legislature..
The avowed Douglas candidates polled over 174,000, while the Lincoln
men received something over 190,000. Administration candidates
received a scant vote of less than 2,000. Notwithstanding this popular
majority, the Republicans secured only thirty-five seats, while the
Democratic minority secured forty. Out of fifteen contested senatorial
seats, the Democrats won eight with a total of 44,826 votes, while the
Republicans cast 53,784 votes and secured but seven. No better proof
could be offered of Lincoln's contention that the State was
gerrymandered in favor of the Democrats. Still, this was part of the
game; and had the Republicans been in office, they would have
undoubtedly used an advantage which has proved too tempting for the
virtue of every American party.

When the two houses of the Illinois Legislature met in joint session,
January 6, 1859, not a man ventured, or desired, to record his vote
otherwise than as his party affiliations dictated. Douglas received
fifty-four votes and Lincoln forty-six. "Glory to God and the Sucker
Democracy," telegraphed the editor of the _State Register_ to his
chief. And back over the wires from Washington was flashed the laconic
message, "Let the voice of the people rule." But had the _will_ of the
people ruled?

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 669: Hollister, Life of Colfax pp. 119 ff; Wilson, Rise and
Fall of the Slave Power, II, p. 567.]

[Footnote 670: Hollister, Colfax, p. 121.]

[Footnote 671: Wilson, p. 567.]

[Footnote 672: Bancroft, Life of Seward, I, pp. 449-450.]

[Footnote 673: Pike, First Blows of the Civil War, p. 403.]

[Footnote 674: Hollister, Colfax, p. 119.]

[Footnote 675: _Ibid._, p. 121.]

[Footnote 676: Wilson, II, p 567; Greeley, Recollections of a Busy
Life, p. 397.]

[Footnote 677: Hollister, Colfax, p. 120.]

[Footnote 678: Herndon-Weik, Life of Lincoln, II, pp. 59 ff.]

[Footnote 679: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 394.]

[Footnote 680: Foote, Casket of Reminiscences, p. 135.]

[Footnote 681: Forney, Anecdotes, II, p. 179.]

[Footnote 682: Lincoln-Douglas Debates (Edition of 1860), p. 1.]

[Footnote 683: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 398-400.]

[Footnote 684: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 400; Mr. Horace White in
Herndon-Weik, Life of Lincoln, II, p. 93.]

[Footnote 685: Debates, p. 9.]

[Footnote 686: Debates, p. 9.]

[Footnote 687: _Ibid._, p. 10.]

[Footnote 688: _Ibid._, p. 11.]

[Footnote 689: Debates, p. 18.]

[Footnote 690: Debates, p. 20.]

[Footnote 691: _Ibid._, p. 24.]

[Footnote 692: Flint, Douglas, pp. 114-117; Chicago _Times_, July 18,

[Footnote 693: Debates, p. 24.]

[Footnote 694: Debates, p. 27.]

[Footnote 695: _Ibid._, p. 30.]

[Footnote 696: _Ibid._, pp. 33-34.]

[Footnote 697: Debates, p. 35.]

[Footnote 698: _Ibid._, p. 39.]

[Footnote 699: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 417; Chicago _Times_, July 21,

[Footnote 700: Debates, p. 44.]

[Footnote 701: _Ibid._, p. 60.]

[Footnote 702: _Ibid._, p. 61.]

[Footnote 703: _Ibid._, p. 63.]

[Footnote 704: Debates, p. 64.]

[Footnote 705: _Ibid._, pp. 64-65.]

[Footnote 706: _Ibid._, p. 66.]

[Footnote 707: Debates, p. 66.]

[Footnote 708: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, pp.

[Footnote 709: For the following description I have drawn freely from
the narratives of eye-witnesses. I am particularly indebted to the
graphic account by Mr. Carl Schurz in _McClure's Magazine_, January,

[Footnote 710: Mr. Schurz in _McClure's_, January, 1907.]

[Footnote 711: Debates, p. 67.]

[Footnote 712: Debates, p. 68.]

[Footnote 713: _Ibid._, p. 69.]

[Footnote 714: Herndon in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, pp. 76-77; Mr.
Carl Schurz in _McClure's_, January, 1907.]

[Footnote 715: Debates, p. 73.]

[Footnote 716: Debates, p. 75.]

[Footnote 717: _Ibid._, p. 82.]

[Footnote 718: _Ibid._, p. 86.]

[Footnote 719: Henry Villard, Memoirs, I, p. 93; Mr. Horace White in
Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 108.]

[Footnote 720: Debates, p. 129.]

[Footnote 721: _Ibid._, p. 130.]

[Footnote 722: Holland, Lincoln, p. 185; Tarbell, Lincoln, _McClure's
Magazine_, VII, pp. 408-409.]

[Footnote 723: Debates, p. 89.]

[Footnote 724: Holland, Lincoln, pp. 188-189; Mr. Horace White in
Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 109.]

[Footnote 725: Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 109.]

[Footnote 726: Debates, p. 95.]

[Footnote 727: Debates, pp. 94-97.]

[Footnote 728: Debates, pp. 100-101.]

[Footnote 729: Debates, p. 101.]

[Footnote 730: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, p. 110.]

[Footnote 731: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, p. 118.]

[Footnote 732: Debates, pp. 113-114.]

[Footnote 733: _Ibid._, p. 120.]

[Footnote 734: Debates, p. 127.]

[Footnote 735: _Ibid._, p. 129.]

[Footnote 736: _Ibid._, p. 135.]

[Footnote 737: Debates, p. 133. Lamon is authority for the statement
that Lincoln pledged himself to Lovejoy and his faction to favor the
exclusion of slavery from all the territory of the United States.
Douglas did not know of this pledge, but suspected an understanding to
this effect. If Lamon may be believed, this statement explains the
persistence of Douglas on this point and the evasiveness of Lincoln.
See Lamon, Lincoln, pp. 361-365.]

[Footnote 738: _Ibid._, p. 135.]

[Footnote 739: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, p. 119.]

[Footnote 740: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, p. 121.]

[Footnote 741: Debates, p. 136.]

[Footnote 742: Debates, pp. 137-143.]

[Footnote 743: See above pp. 303-304.]

[Footnote 744: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, p. 122.]

[Footnote 745: Debates, p. 159.]

[Footnote 746: _Ibid._, p. 157.]

[Footnote 747: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 342.]

[Footnote 748: Foote, Casket of Reminiscences, p. 135; Herndon-Weik,
Lincoln, II, p. 127.]

[Footnote 749: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 129.]

[Footnote 750: Coleman, Life of Crittenden, II, p. 163.]

[Footnote 751: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 341.]

[Footnote 752: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 338, note
3. The record of the Circuit Court of Cook County, December term,
1867, states that the entire lien upon the estate in 1864 exceeded
$94,000. The mortgages were held by Fernando Wood and others of New

[Footnote 753: Villard, Memoirs, I, p. 92.]

[Footnote 754: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 123.]

[Footnote 755: Debates p. 173.]

[Footnote 756: _Ibid._, p. 180.]

[Footnote 757: Debates, p. 181.]

[Footnote 758: Debates, p. 188.]

[Footnote 759: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, pp.

[Footnote 760: Debates, p. 198.]

[Footnote 761: Debates, p. 199; _McClure's Magazine_, January, 1907.]

[Footnote 762: Debates, p. 201.]

[Footnote 763: _Ibid._, p. 201.]

[Footnote 764: Debates, p. 204.]

[Footnote 765: _Ibid._, p. 209.]

[Footnote 766: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 124.]

[Footnote 767: Debates, p. 231.]

[Footnote 768: _Ibid._, p. 218.]

[Footnote 769: Debates, p. 234.]

[Footnote 770: _Ibid._, p. 238.]

[Footnote 771: Sheahan, Douglas, p. 432.]

[Footnote 772: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, II, p. 146 note.]

[Footnote 773: Sheahan, Douglas, pp. 439-442; Herndon-Weik, Lincoln,
II, p. 128.]

[Footnote 774: It has not been generally observed that the Democrats
gained more than their opponents over the State contest of 1856. The
election returns were as follows:

    Democratic ticket in 1856, 106,643; in 1858, 121,609; gain, 14,966.
    Republican ticket in 1856, 111,375; in 1858, 125,430; gain, 14,055.



Douglas had achieved a great personal triumph. Not even his Republican
opponents could gainsay it. In the East, the Republican newspapers
applauded him undisguisedly, not so much because they admired him or
lacked sympathy with Lincoln, as because they regarded his re-election
as a signal condemnation of the Buchanan administration. Moreover,
there was a general expectation in anti-slavery circles to which
Theodore Parker gave expression when he wrote, "Had Lincoln succeeded,
Douglas would be a ruined man.... But now in place for six years more,
with his own personal power unimpaired and his positional influence
much enhanced, he can do the Democratic party a world of damage."[775]
There was cheer in this expectation even for those who deplored the
defeat of Lincoln.

As Douglas journeyed southward soon after the November elections, he
must have felt the poignant truth of Lincoln's shrewd observation that
he was himself becoming sectional. Though he was received with seeming
cordiality at Memphis and New Orleans, he could not but notice that
his speeches, as Lincoln predicted, "would not go current south of the
Ohio River as they had formerly." Democratic audiences applauded his
bold insistence upon the universality of the principles of the party
creed, but the tone of the Southern press was distinctly unfriendly
to him and his Freeport doctrine.[776] He told his auditors at Memphis
that he indorsed the decision of the Supreme Court; he believed that
the owners of slaves had the same right to take them into the
Territories as they had to take other property; but slaves once in the
Territory were then subject to local laws for protection, on an equal
footing with all other property. If no local laws protecting slave
property were passed, slavery would be practically excluded.
"Non-action is exclusion." It was a matter of soil, climate,
interests, whether a Territory would permit slavery or not. "You come
right back to the principle of dollars and cents ... If old Joshua E.
Giddings should raise a colony in Ohio and settle down in Louisiana,
he would be the strongest advocate of slavery in the whole South; he
would find when he got there, his opinion would be very much modified;
he would find on those sugar plantations that it was not a question
between the white man and the negro, but between the negro and the
crocodile." "The Almighty has drawn the line on this continent, on one
side of which the soil must be cultivated by slave labor; on the other
by white labor."[777]

At New Orleans, he repeated more emphatically much the same thought.
"There is a line, or belt of country, meandering through the valleys
and over the mountain tops, which is a natural barrier between free
territory and slave territory, on the south of which are to be found
the productions suitable to slave labor, while on the north exists a
country adapted to free labor alone.... But in the great central
regions, where there may be some doubt as to the effect of natural
causes, who ought to decide the question except the people residing
there, who have all their interests there, who have gone there to live
with their wives and children!"[778]

It was characteristic of the man that he thought politics even when he
was in pursuit of health. Advised to take an ocean voyage, he decided
to visit Cuba so that even his recreative leisure might be politically
profitable, for the island was more than ever coveted by the South and
he wished to have the advantage of first-hand information about this
unhappy Spanish province. Landing in New York upon his return, he was
given a remarkable ovation by the Democracy of the city; and he was
greeted with equal warmth in Philadelphia and Baltimore.[779] Even a
less ambitious man might have been tempted to believe in his own
capacity for leadership, in the midst of these apparently spontaneous
demonstrations of regard. At the capital, however, he was less
cordially welcomed. He was not in the least surprised, for while he
was still in the South, the newspapers had announced his deposition
from the chairmanship of the Committee on Territories. He knew well
enough what he had to expect from the group of Southern Democrats who
had the ear of the administration.[780] Nevertheless, his removal from
a position which he had held ever since he entered the Senate was a
bitter pill.

For the sake of peace Douglas smothered his resentment, and, for a
brief time at least, sought to demonstrate his political orthodoxy in
matters where there was no conflict of opinion. As a member of the
Committee on Foreign Affairs, he cordially supported the bill for the
purchase of Cuba, even though the chairman, Slidell, had done more to
injure him in the recent campaign than any other man. There were those
who thought he demeaned himself by attending the Democratic caucus and
indorsing the Slidell project.[781]

It was charged that the proposed appropriation of $30,000,000 was to
be used to bribe Spanish ministers to sell Cuba; that the whole
project was motived by the desire of the South to acquire more slave
territory; and that Douglas was once more cultivating the South to
secure the presidency in 1860. The first of these charges has never
been proved; the second is probably correct; but the third is surely
open to question. As long ago as Folk's administration, Douglas had
expressed his belief that the Pearl of the Antilles must some day fall
to us; and on various occasions he had advocated the annexation of
Cuba, with the consent of Spain and the inhabitants. At New Orleans,
he had been called upon to express his views regarding the acquisition
of the island; and he had said, without hesitation, "It is folly to
debate the acquisition of Cuba. It naturally belongs to the American
continent. It guards the mouth of the Mississippi River, which is the
heart of the American continent and the body of the American nation."
At the same time he was careful to add that he was no filibuster: he
desired Cuba only upon terms honorable to all concerned.[782]

Subsequent events acquit Douglas of truckling to the South at this
time. No doubt he would have been glad to let bygones be bygones, to
close up the gap of unpleasant memories between himself and the
administration, and to restore Democratic harmony. For Douglas loved
his party and honored its history. To him the party of Jefferson and
Jackson was inseparably linked with all that made the American
Commonwealth the greatest of democracies. Yet where men are acutely
conscious of vital differences of opinion, only the hourly practice of
self-control can prevent clashing. Neither Douglas nor his opponents
were prepared to undergo any such rigid self-discipline.

On February 23d, the pent-up feeling broke through all barriers and
laid bare the thoughts and intents of the Democratic factions. The
Kansas question once more recurring, Brown of Mississippi now demanded
adequate protection for property; that is, "protection sufficient to
protect animate property." Any other protection would be a delusion
and a cheat. If the territorial legislature refused such protection,
he for one would demand it of Congress. He dissented altogether from
the doctrine of the Senator from Illinois, that by non-action, or
unfriendly legislation a Territory could annul a decision of the
Supreme Court and exclude slavery. That was mistaking power for right.
"What I want to know is, whether you will interpose against power and
in favor of right.... If the Territorial Legislature refuses to act,
will you act?... If it pass laws hostile to slavery, will you annul
them, and substitute laws favoring slavery in their stead?" "What I
and my people ask is action; positive, unqualified action. Our
understanding of the doctrine of non-intervention was, that you were
not to intervene against us, but I never understood that we could have
any compromise or understanding here which could release Congress from
an obligation imposed on it by the Constitution of the United

Reluctant as Douglas must have been to accentuate the differences
between himself and the Southern Democrats, he could not remain
silent, for silence would be misconstrued. With all the tact which he
could muster out of a not too abundant store, he sought to conciliate,
without yielding his own opinions. It was a futile effort. At the very
outset he was forced to deny the right of slave property to other
protection than common property. Thence he passed with wider and wider
divergence from the Southern position over the familiar ground of
popular sovereignty. To the specific demands which Brown had voiced,
he replied that Congress had never passed an act creating a criminal
code for any organized Territory, nor any law protecting any species
of property. Congress had left these matters to the territorial
legislatures. Why, then, make an exception of slave property? The
Supreme Court had made no such distinction. "I know," said Douglas, in
a tone little calculated to soothe the feelings of his opponents, "I
know that some gentlemen do not like the doctrine of non-intervention
as well as they once did. It is now becoming fashionable to talk
sneeringly of 'your doctrine of non-intervention,' Sir, that doctrine
has been a fundamental article in the Democratic creed for years."
"If you repudiate the doctrine of non-intervention and form a slave
code by act of Congress, when the people of a Territory refuse it, you
must step off the Democratic platform.... I tell you, gentlemen of the
South, in all candor, I do not believe a Democratic candidate can ever
carry any one Democratic State of the North on the platform that it is
the duty of the Federal government to force the people of a Territory
to have slavery when they do not want it."[784]

What Brown had asserted with his wonted impulsiveness, was then
reaffirmed more soberly by his colleague, Jefferson Davis, upon whom
more than any other Southerner the mantle of Calhoun had fallen. State
sovereignty was also his major premise. The Constitution was a
compact. The Territories were common property of the States. The
territorial legislatures were mere instruments through which the
Congress of the United States "executed its trust in relation to the
Territories." If, as the Senator from Illinois insisted, Congress had
granted full power to the inhabitants of the Territories to legislate
on all subjects not inconsistent with the Constitution, then Congress
had exceeded its authority. Turning to Douglas, Davis said, "Now, the
senator asks, will you make a discrimination in the Territories? I
say, yes, I would discriminate in the Territories wherever it is
needful to assert the right of citizens.... I have heard many a
siren's song on this doctrine of non-intervention; a thing shadowy and
fleeting, changing its color as often as the chameleon."[785]

When Douglas could again get the floor, he retorted sharply, "The
senator from Mississippi says, if I am not willing to stand in the
party on his platform, I can go out. Allow me to inform him that I
stand on the platform, and those that jump off must go out of the

Hot words now passed between them. Davis spoke disdainfully of men who
seek to build up a political reputation by catering to the prejudice
of a majority, to exclude the property of the minority. And Douglas
retorted, "I despise to see men from other sections of the Union
pandering to a public sentiment against what I conceive to be common
rights under the Constitution." "Holding the views that you do," said
Davis, "you would have no chance of getting the vote of Mississippi
to-day." The senator has "confirmed me in the belief that he is now as
full of heresy as he once was of adherence to the doctrine of popular
sovereignty, correctly construed; that he has gone back to his first
love of squatter sovereignty, a thing offensive to every idea of
conservatism and sound government."

Davis made repeated efforts to secure an answer to the question
whether, in the event that slavery should be excluded by the people of
a Territory and the Supreme Court should decide against such action,
Douglas would maintain the rights of the slave-holders. Douglas
replied, somewhat evasively, that when the Supreme Court should decide
upon the constitutionality of the local laws, he would abide by the
decision. "That is not the point," rejoined Davis impatiently;
"Congress must compel the Territorial Legislature to perform its
proper functions"; _i.e._ actively protect slave property. "Well,"
said Douglas with exasperating coolness, "on that point, the Senator
and I differ. If the Territorial Legislature will not pass such laws
as will encourage mules, I will not force them to have them." Again
Davis insisted that his question had not been answered. Douglas
repeated, "I will vote against any law by Congress attempting to
interfere with a regulation made by the Territories, with respect to
any kind of property whatever, whether horses, mules, negroes, or
anything else."[786]

But there was a flaw in Douglas's armor which Green of Missouri
detected. Had the Senator from Illinois not urged the intervention of
Congress to prevent polygamy in Utah? "Not at all," replied Douglas;
"the people of that Territory were in a state of rebellion against the
Federal authorities." What he had urged was the repeal of the organic
act of the Territory, so that the United States might exercise
absolute jurisdiction and protect property in that region. "But if the
people of a Territory took away property in slaves, were they not also
defying the Federal authorities?" persisted Green. Unquestionably
Congress might revoke the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Douglas admitted; but
it should be remembered that the act was bottomed upon an agreement.
There was a distinct understanding that the question whether
territorial laws affecting the right of property in slaves were
constitutional, should be referred to the Supreme Court. "If
constitutional, they were to remain in force until repealed by the
Territorial Legislature; if not, they were to become void not by
action of Congress but by the decision of the court."[787] And Douglas
quoted at length from a speech by Senator Benjamin in 1856, to prove
his point. But it was precisely this agreement of 1854, which was now
being either repudiated or construed in the interest of the South.
Jefferson Davis frankly deprecated the "great hazard" which
representatives from his section ran in 1854; but, he added, "I take
it for granted my friends who are about me must have understood at
that time clearly that this was the mere reference of a right; and
that if decided in our favor, congressional legislation would follow
in its train, and secure to us the enjoyment of the right thus

The wide divergence of purpose and opinion which this debate revealed,
dashed any hope of a united Democratic party in 1860. Men who looked
into the future were sobered by the prospect. If the Democratic party
were rent in twain,--the only surviving national party,--if
Northerners and Southerners could no longer act together within a
party of such elastic principles, what hope remained for the Union?
The South was already boldly facing the inevitable. Said Brown,
passionately, "If I cannot obtain the rights guaranteed to me and my
people under the Constitution, as expounded by the Supreme Court,
then, Sir, I am prepared to retire from the concern.... When our
constitutional rights are denied us, we _ought_ to retire from the
Union.... If you are going to convert the Union into a masked battery
from behind which to make war on me and my property, in the name of
all the gods at once, why should I not retire from it?"[789]

After the 23d of February, Douglas neither gave nor expected quarter
from the Southern faction led by Jefferson Davis. So far from avoiding
conflict, he seems rather to have forced the fighting. He flaunted his
views in the faces of the fire-eaters. Prudence would have suggested
silence, when a convention of Southern States met at Vicksburg and
resolved that "all laws, State and Federal, prohibiting the African
slave-trade, ought to be repealed,"[790] but Douglas, who knew
something of the dimensions which this illicit traffic had already
assumed, at once declared himself opposed to it. He said privately in
a conversation, which afterwards was reported by an anonymous
correspondent to the New York _Tribune_, that he believed fifteen
thousand Africans were brought into the country last year. He had seen
"with his own eyes three hundred of those recently imported miserable
beings in a slave-pen at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and also large
numbers at Memphis, Tennessee."[791]

In a letter which speedily became public property, Douglas said that
he would not accept the nomination of the Democratic party, if the
convention should interpolate into the party creed "such new issues as
the revival of the African slave-trade, or a congressional slave code
for the Territories."[792] And to leave no doubt as to his attitude he
wrote a second letter, devoted exclusively to this subject; it also
found its way, as the author probably intended it should, into the
newspapers. He opposed the revival of the African slave-trade because
it was abolished by one of the compromises which had made the Federal
Union and the Constitution. "In accordance with this compromise, I am
irreconcilably opposed to the revival of the African slave-trade, in
any form and under any circumstances."[793] How deeply this
unequivocal condemnation lacerated the feelings of the South, will
never be known until the economic necessities and purposes of the
large plantation owners are more clearly revealed.

The captious criticism of the Freeport doctrine by Southerners of the
Calhoun-Jefferson Davis school was less damaging, from a legal point
of view, than the sober analysis of Lincoln. The emphasis in Lincoln's
famous question at Freeport fell upon the word _lawful_: "Can the
people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way," etc. Douglas
had replied to the question of legal right by an assertion of the
power of the people of the Territories. This answer, as Lincoln
pointed out subsequently, was equivalent to saying that "a thing may
be lawfully driven away from where it has the lawful right to
be."[794] As a prediction, Douglas's simple statement, that if the
people of a Territory wanted slavery they would have it, and if they
did not, they would not let it be forced on them, was fully justified
by the facts of American history. It has been characteristic of the
American people that, without irreverence for law, they have not
allowed it to stand in the way of their natural development: they have
not, as a rule, driven rough-shod over law, but have quietly allowed
undesirable laws to fall into innocuous desuetude.

But such an answer was unworthy of a man who prided himself upon his
fidelity to the obligation of the Constitution and the laws. Feeling
the full force of Lincoln's inexorable logic,[795] but believing that
it was bottomed on a false premise, Douglas endeavored to give his
Freeport doctrine its proper constitutional setting. During the
summer, he elaborated an historical and constitutional defense of
popular sovereignty. The editors of _Harper's Magazine_ so far
departed from the traditions of that popular periodical as to publish
this long and tedious essay in the September number. Douglas probably
calculated that through this medium better than almost any other, he
would reach those readers to whom Lincoln made his most effective

The essay bore the title "The Dividing Line between Federal and Local
Authority," with the sub-caption, "Popular Sovereignty in the
Territories." In his interpretation of history, the author proved
himself rather a better advocate than historian. He had traversed much
the same ground in his speeches--and with far more vivacity and force.
Douglas searched the colonial records, and found--one is tempted to
say, to find--our fathers contending unremittingly for "the
inalienable right, when formed into political communities, to
exercise exclusive power of legislation in their local legislatures in
respect to all things affecting their internal polity--slavery not

Douglas took issue with the fundamental postulate of Lincoln's
syllogism--that a Territory is the mere creature of Congress and
cannot be clothed with powers not possessed by the creator. He denied
that such an inference could be drawn from that clause in the
Constitution which permits Congress to dispose of, and make all
needful rules for, the territory or other property belonging to the
United States. Names were deceptive. The word "territory" in this
connection was not used in a political, but in a geographical sense.
The power of Congress to organize governments for the Territories must
be inferred rather from the power to admit new States into the Union.
The Federal government possessed only expressly delegated powers; and
the absence of any explicit authority to interfere in local
territorial affairs must be held to inhibit any exercise of such
power. It was on these grounds that the Supreme Court had ruled that
Congress was not authorized by the Constitution to prohibit slavery in
the Territories.

It had been erroneously held by some, continued the essayist, that the
Court decided in the Dred Scott case that a territorial legislature
could not legislate in respect to slave property like other property.
He understood the Court to speak only of forbidden powers--powers
denied to Congress, to State legislatures and to territorial
legislatures alike. But if ever slavery should be decided to be one of
these forbidden subjects of legislation, then the conclusion would be
inevitable that the Constitution established slavery in the
Territories beyond the power of the people to control it by law, and
guaranteed to every citizen the right to go there and be protected in
the enjoyment of his slave property; then every member of Congress
would be in duty bound to supply adequate protection, if the rights of
property should be invaded. Not only so, but another conclusion would
follow,--if the Constitution should be held to establish slavery in
the Territories beyond the power of the people to control
it,--Congress would be bound to provide adequate protection for slave
property everywhere, _in the States_ as well as in the Territories.

Douglas immediately went on to show that such was not the decision of
the Court in the Dred Scott case. The Court had held that "the right
of property in slaves is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the
Constitution." Yes, but where? Why in that provision which speaks of
persons "held to service or labor in one State, under the laws
thereof"; not under the Constitution, not under the laws of Congress,
Douglas emphasized, but _under the laws of the particular State where
such service is due._ And so, when the Court declared that "the
government, in express terms, is pledged to protect it [slave
property] in all future time," it added "if the slave escapes from his
owner." "This is the only contingency," Douglas maintained, "in which
the Federal Government is authorized, required, or permitted to
interfere with slavery in the States or Territories; and in that case
only for the purpose of 'guarding and protecting the owner in his
rights' to reclaim his slave property." Slave-owners, therefore, who
moved with their property to a Territory, must hold it like all other
property, subject to local law, and look to local authorities for its

One other question remained: was the word "State," as used in the
clause just cited, intended to include Territories? Douglas so
contended. Otherwise, "the Territories must become a sanctuary for all
fugitives from service and justice." In numerous clauses in the
Constitution, the Territories were recognized as _States_.

Clever as this reasoning was, it clearly was not a fair exposition of
the opinion of the Court in the case of Dred Scott. If the Court did
not deny the right of a territorial legislature to interfere with
slave property, it certainly left that proposition open to fair
inference by the phrasing and emphasis of the critical passages. It
should be noted that Douglas, in quoting the decision, misplaced the
decisive clause so as to bring it in juxtaposition to the reference to
the fugitive slave clause of the Constitution, thus redistributing the
emphasis and confusing the real significance of the foregoing
paragraph.[798] Douglas stated subsequently that he did not believe
the decision of the Court reached the power of a territorial
legislature, because there was no territorial legislature in the
record nor any allusion to one; because there was no territorial
enactment before the Court; and because there was no fact in the case
alluding to or connected with territorial legislation.[799] All this
was perfectly true. The opinion of the Court was _obiter dicens_; but
the Court expressed its opinion nevertheless. As Lincoln said, men
knew what to expect of the Court when a territorial act prohibiting
slavery came before it. Yet this was what Douglas would not concede.
He would not admit the inference. Congress could confer powers upon a
territorial legislature which it could not itself exercise. The
dividing line between Federal and local authority was so drawn as to
permit Congress to institute governments with legislative, judicial,
and executive functions but without permitting Congress to exercise
those functions itself. From Douglas's point of view, a Territory was
not a dependency of the Federal government, but an inchoate
Commonwealth, endowed with many of the attributes of sovereignty
possessed by the full-fledged States.

So unusual an event as a political contribution by a prominent
statesman to a popular magazine, created no little excitement.[800]
Attorney-General Black came to the defense of the South with an
unsigned contribution to the Washington _Constitution_, the organ of
the administration.[801] And Douglas, who had meantime gone to Ohio to
take part in the State campaign, replied caustically to this critique
in his speech at Wooster, September 16th. Black rejoined in a pamphlet
under his own name. Whereupon Douglas returned to the attack with a
slashing pamphlet, which he sent to the printer in an unfinished form
and which did him little credit.[802]

This war of pamphlets was productive of no results. Douglas and Black
were wide apart upon their major premises, and diverged inevitably in
their conclusions. Holding fast to the premise that a Territory was
not sovereign but a "subordinate dependency," Black ridiculed the
attempts of Douglas to clothe it, not with complete sovereignty but
with "the attributes of sovereignty."[803] Then Douglas denounced in
scathing terms the absurdity of Black's assumption that property in
the Territories would be held by the laws of the State from which it
came, while it must look for redress of wrongs to the law of its new

The Ohio campaign attracted much attention throughout the country, not
only because the gubernatorial candidates were thoroughgoing
representatives of the Republican party and of Douglas Democracy, but
because both Lincoln and Douglas were again brought into the
arena.[805] While the latter did not meet in joint debate, their
successive appearance at Columbus and Cincinnati gave the campaign the
aspect of a prolongation of the Illinois contest. Lincoln devoted no
little attention to the _Harper's Magazine_ article, while Douglas
defended himself and his doctrine against all comers. There was a
disposition in many quarters to concede that popular sovereignty,
whether theoretically right or wrong, would settle the question of
slavery in the Territories.[806] Apropos of Douglas's speech at
Columbus, the New York _Times_ admitted that at least his principles
were "definite" and uttered in a "frank, gallant and masculine"
spirit;[807] and his speeches were deemed of enough importance to be
printed entire in the columns of this Republican journal. "He means to
go to Charleston," guessed the editor shrewdly, "as the unmistakable
representative of the Democratic party of the North and to bring this
influence to bear upon Southern delegates as the only way to secure
their interests against anti-slavery sentiment represented by the
Republicans. He will claim that not a single Northern State can be
carried on a platform more pro-slavery than his. The Democrats of the
North have yielded all they will."[808]

While Douglas was in Ohio, he was saddened by the intelligence that
Senator Broderick of California, his loyal friend and staunch
supporter in the Lecompton fight, had fallen a victim to the animosity
of the Southern faction in his State. The Washington _Constitution_
might explain his death as an affair of honor--he was shot in a
duel--but intelligent men knew that Broderick's assailant had desired
to rid Southern "chivalry" of a hated political opponent.[809] A month
later, on the night of October 16th, John Brown of Kansas fame
marshalled his little band of eighteen men and descended upon the
United States arsenal at Harper's Ferry. What did these events

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 775: Weiss, Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker, II,
p. 243.]

[Footnote 776: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 355.]

[Footnote 777: Memphis _Avalanche_, November 30, 1858, quoted by
Chicago _Times_, December 8, 1858.]

[Footnote 778: New Orleans _Delta_, December 8, 1858, quoted by
Chicago _Times_, December 19, 1858.]

[Footnote 779: Rhodes, History of United States, II, p. 355.]

[Footnote 780: See reported conversation of Douglas with the editor of
the Chicago _Press and Tribune_, Hollister, Life of Colfax, p. 123.]

[Footnote 781: Letcher to Crittenden; Coleman. Life of John J.
Crittenden, II, p. 171; Hollister, Colfax, p. 124.]

[Footnote 782: New Orleans _Delta_, December 8, 1858.]

[Footnote 783: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1243.]

[Footnote 784: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 2: Sess., p. 1245.]

[Footnote 785: _Ibid._, pp. 1247-1248.]

[Footnote 786: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1259.]

[Footnote 787: _Ibid._, p. 1258.]

[Footnote 788: _Globe_, 35 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1256.]

[Footnote 789: _Ibid._, p. 1243.]

[Footnote 790: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 371.]

[Footnote 791: _Ibid._, pp. 369-370.]

[Footnote 792: Letter to J.B. Dorr, June 22, 1859; Flint, Douglas, pp.

[Footnote 793: Letter to J.L. Peyton, August 2, 1859; Sheahan,
Douglas, pp. 465-466.]

[Footnote 794: Speech at Columbus, Ohio, September, 1859; see Debates,
p. 250.]

[Footnote 795: On his return to Washington after the debates, Douglas
said to Wilson, "He [Lincoln] is an able and honest man, one of the
ablest of the nation. I have been in Congress sixteen years, and there
is not a man in the Senate I would not rather encounter in debate."
Wilson, Slave Power in America, II, p. 577.]

[Footnote 796: It does not seem likely that Douglas hoped to reach the
people of the South through _Harper's Magazine_, as it never had a
large circulation south of Mason and Dixon's line. See Smith, Parties
and Slavery, p. 292.]

[Footnote 797: _Harper's Magazine_, XIX, p. 527.]

[Footnote 798: Compare the quotation in _Harper's_, p. 531, with the
opinion of the Court, U.S. Supreme Court Reports, 19 How., p. 720. The
clause beginning "And if the Constitution recognizes" is taken from
its own paragraph and put in the middle of the following paragraph.]

[Footnote 799: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 2152. This statement was
confirmed by Reverdy Johnson, who was one of the lawyers that argued
the case. See the speech of Reverdy Johnson, June 7, 1860.]

[Footnote 800: Rhodes, History of the United States, II., p. 374.]

[Footnote 801: Washington _Constitution_, September 10, 1859. The
article was afterward published in a collection of his essays and

[Footnote 802: Flint, Douglas, p. 181.]

[Footnote 803: One of the most interesting commentaries on Black's
argument is his defense of the people of Utah, many years later,
against the Anti-Polygamy Laws, when he used Douglas's argument
without the slightest qualms. See Essays and Speeches, pp. 603, 604,

[Footnote 804: Flint, Douglas, pp. 172-181 gives extracts from these

[Footnote 805: Rhodes History of United States, II, p. 381.]

[Footnote 806: _Ibid._, p. 382.]

[Footnote 807: New York _Times_, September 9, 1859.]

[Footnote 808: _Ibid._, September 9, 1859.]

[Footnote 809: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp.



Deeds of violence are the inevitable precursors of an approaching war.
They are so many expressions of that estrangement which is at the root
of all sectional conflicts. The raid of John Brown upon Harper's
Ferry, like his earlier lawless acts in Kansas, was less the crime of
an individual than the manifestation of a deep social unrest.
Occurring on the eve of a momentous presidential election, it threw
doubts upon the finality of any appeal to the ballot. The antagonism
between North and South was such as to make an appeal to arms seem a
probable last resort. The political question of the year 1860 was
whether the law-abiding habit of the American people and the
traditional mode of effecting changes in governmental policy, would be
strong enough to withstand the primitive instinct to decide the
question of right by an appeal to might. To actors in the drama the
question assumed this simple, concrete form: could the national
Democratic party maintain its integrity and achieve another victory
over parties which were distinctly sectional?

The passions aroused by the Harper's Ferry episode had no time to cool
before Congress met. They were again inflamed by the indorsement of
Helper's "Impending Crisis" by influential Republicans. As the author
was a poor white of North Carolina who hated slavery and desired to
prove that the institution was inimical to the interests of his
class, the book was regarded by slave-holders as an incendiary
publication, conceived in the same spirit as John Brown's raid. The
contest for the Speakership of the House turned upon the attitude of
candidates toward this book. At the North "The Impending Crisis" had
great vogue, passing through many editions. All events seemed to
conspire to prevent sobriety of judgment and moderation in speech.

From a legislative point of view, this exciting session of Congress
was barren of results. The paramount consideration was the approaching
party conventions. What principles and policies would control the
action of the Democratic convention at Charleston, depended very
largely upon who should control the great body of delegates. Early in
January various State conventions in the Northwest expressed their
choice. Illinois took the lead with a series of resolutions which rang
clear and true on all the cardinal points of the Douglas creed.[810]
Within the next sixty days every State in the greater Northwest had
chosen delegates to the national Democratic convention, pledged to
support the nomination of Stephen A. Douglas.[811] It was with the
knowledge, then, that he spoke for the Democracy of the Northwest that
Douglas took issue with those Southern senators who plumed themselves
on their party orthodoxy.

In a debate which was precipitated by a resolution of Senator Pugh,
the old sores were rent open. Senator Davis of Mississippi was
particularly irritating in his allusions to the Freeport, and other
recent, heresies of the Senator from Illinois. In the give and take
which followed, Douglas was beset behind and before. But his fighting
blood was up and he promised to return blow for blow, with interest.
Let every man make his assault, and when all were through, he would
"fire into the lump."[812] "I am not seeking a nomination," he
declared, "I am willing to take one provided I can assume it on
principles that I believe to be sound; but in the event of your making
a platform that I could not conscientiously execute in good faith if I
were elected, I will not stand upon it and be a candidate." For his
part he would like to know "who it is that has the right to say who is
in the party and who not?" He believed that he was backed by
two-thirds of the Democracy of the United States. Did one-third of the
Democratic party propose to read out the remaining two-thirds? "I have
no grievances, but I have no concessions. I have no abandonment of
position or principle; no recantation to make to any man or body of
men on earth."[813]

Some days later Douglas made it equally clear that he had no
recantation to make for the sake of Republican support. Speaking of
the need of some measure by which the States might be protected
against acts of violence like the Harper's Ferry affair, he roundly
denounced that outrage as "the natural, logical, inevitable result of
the doctrines and teachings of the Republican party, as explained and
enforced in their platform, their partisan presses, their pamphlets
and books, and especially in the speeches of their leaders in and out
of Congress."[814] True, they disavowed the _act_ of John Brown, but
they should also repudiate and denounce the doctrines and teachings
which produced the act. Fraternal peace was possible only upon "that
good old golden principle which teaches all men to mind their own
business and let their neighbors' alone." When men so act, the Union
can endure forever as the fathers made it, composed of free and slave
States.[815] "Then the senator is really indifferent to slavery, as he
is reported to have said?" queried Fessenden. "Sir," replied Douglas,
"I hold the doctrine that a statesman will adapt his laws to the
wants, conditions, and interests of the people to be governed by them.
Slavery may be very essential in one climate and totally useless in
another. If I were a citizen of Louisiana I would vote for retaining
and maintaining slavery, because I believe the good of the people
would require it. As a citizen of Illinois I am utterly opposed to it,
because our interests would not be promoted by it."[816]

The lines upon which the Charleston convention would divide, were
sharply drawn by a series of resolutions presented to the Senate by
Jefferson Davis. They were intended to serve as an ultimatum, and they
were so understood by Northern Democrats. They were deliberately
wrought out in conference as the final expression of Southern
conviction. In explicit language the right of either Congress or a
territorial legislature to impair the constitutional right of property
in slaves, was denied. In case of unfriendly legislation, it was
declared to be the duty of Congress to provide adequate protection to
slave property. Popular sovereignty was completely discarded by the
assertion that the people of a Territory might pass upon the question
of slavery only when they formed a State constitution.[817]

As the delegates to the Democratic convention began to gather in the
latter part of April, the center of political interest shifted from
Washington to Charleston. Here the battle between the factions was to
be fought out, but without the presence of the real leaders. The
advantages of organization were with the Douglas men. The delegations
from the Northwest were devoted, heart and soul, to their chief. As
they passed through the capital on their journey to the South, they
gathered around him with noisy demonstrations of affection; and when
they continued on their way, they were more determined than ever to
secure his nomination.[818] From the South, too, every Douglas man who
was likely to carry weight in his community, was brought to Charleston
to labor among the Ultras of his section.[819] The Douglas
headquarters in Hibernian Hall bore witness to the business-like way
in which his candidacy was being promoted. Not the least striking
feature within the committee rooms was the ample supply of Sheahan's
_Life of Stephen A. Douglas_, fresh from the press.[820]

Recognized leader of the Douglas forces was Colonel Richardson of
Illinois, a veteran in convention warfare, seasoned by years of
congressional service and by long practice in managing men.[821] It
was he who had led the Douglas cohorts in the Cincinnati convention.
The memory of that defeat still rankled, and he was not disposed to
yield to like contingencies. Indeed, the spirit of the delegates from
the Northwest,--and they seemed likely to carry the other Northern
delegates with them,--was offensively aggressive; and their
demonstrations of enthusiasm assumed a minatory aspect, as they
learned of the presence of Slidell, Bigler, and Bright, and witnessed
the efforts of the administration to defeat the hero of the Lecompton

Those who observed the proceedings of the convention could not rid
themselves of the impression that opposing parties were wrestling for
control, so bitter and menacing was the interchange of opinion. It was
matter of common report that the Southern delegations would withdraw
if Douglas were nominated.[823] Equally ominous was the rumor that
Richardson was authorized to withdraw the name of Douglas, if the
platform adopted should advocate the protection of slavery in the
Territories.[824] The temper of the convention was such as to preclude
an amicable agreement, even if Douglas withdrew.

The advantages of compact organization and conscious purpose were
apparent in the first days of the convention. At every point the
Douglas men forced the fighting. On the second day, it was voted that
where a delegation had not been instructed by a State convention how
to give its vote, the individual delegates might vote as they pleased.
This rule would work to the obvious advantage of Douglas.[825] On the
third day, the convention refused to admit the contesting delegations
from New York and Illinois, represented by Fernando Wood and Isaac
Cook respectively.[826]

Meantime the committee on resolutions, composed of one delegate from
each State, was in the throes of platform-making. Both factions had
agreed to frame a platform before naming a candidate. But here, as in
the convention, the possibility of amiable discussion and mutual
concession was precluded. The Southern delegates voted in caucus to
hold to the Davis resolutions; the Northern, with equal stubbornness,
clung to the well-known principles of Douglas. On the fifth day of the
convention, April 27th, the committee presented a majority report and
two minority reports. The first was essentially an epitome of the
Davis resolutions; the second reaffirmed the Cincinnati platform, at
the same time pledging the party to abide by the decisions of the
Supreme Court on those questions of constitutional law which should
affect the rights of property in the States or Territories; and the
third report simply reaffirmed the Cincinnati platform without
additional resolutions.[827] The defense of the main minority report
fell to Payne of Ohio. In a much more conciliatory spirit than Douglas
men had hitherto shown, he assured the Southern members of the
convention that every man who had signed the report felt that "upon
the result of our deliberations and the action of this convention, in
all human probability, depended the fate of the Democratic party and
the destiny of the Union." The North was devoted to the principle of
popular sovereignty, but "we ask nothing for the people of the
territories but what the Constitution allows them."[828] The argument
of Payne was cogent and commended itself warmly to Northern delegates;
but it struck Southern ears as a tiresome reiteration of arguments
drawn from premises which they could not admit.

It was Yancey of Alabama, chief among fire-eaters, who, in the
afternoon of the same day, warmed the cockles of the Southern heart.
Gifted with all the graces of Southern orators, he made an eloquent
plea for Southern rights. Protection was what the South demanded:
protection in their constitutional rights and in their sacred rights
of property. The proposition contained in the minority report would
ruin the South. "You acknowledged that slavery did not exist by the
law of nature or by the law of God--that it only existed by State law;
that it was wrong, but that you were not to blame. That was your
position, and it was wrong. If you had taken the position directly
that slavery was right, and therefore ought to be ... you would have
triumphed, and anti-slavery would now have been dead in your midst....
I say it in no disrespect, but it is a logical argument that your
admission that slavery is wrong has been the cause of all this

These words brought Senator Pugh to his feet. Wrought to a dangerous
pitch of excitement, he thanked God that a bold and honest man from
the South had at last spoken, and had told the whole of the Southern
demands. The South demanded now nothing less than that Northern
Democrats should declare slavery to be right. "Gentlemen of the
South," he exclaimed, "you mistake us--you mistake us--we will not do
it."[830] The convention adjourned before Pugh had finished; but in
the evening he told the Southern delegates plainly that Northern
Democrats were not children at the bidding of the South. If the
gentlemen from the South could stay only on the terms they proposed,
they must go. For once the hall was awed into quiet, for Senator Pugh
stood close to Douglas and the fate of the party hung in the

Sunday intervened, but the situation remained unchanged. Gloom settled
down upon the further deliberations of the convention. On Monday, the
minority report (the Douglas platform) was adopted by a vote of 165 to
138. Thereupon the chairman of the Alabama delegation protested and
announced the formal withdrawal of his State from the convention. The
crisis had arrived. Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida,
Texas, and Arkansas followed in succession, with valedictories which
seemed directed less to the convention than to the Union. Indeed, more
than one face blanched at the probable significance of this secession.
Southerners of the Yancey following, however, were jubilant and had
much to say about an independent Southern Republic.[832]

On the following day, what Yancey scornfully dubbed the "Rump
Convention," proceeded to ballot, having first voted that two-thirds
of the full vote of the convention should be necessary to nominate. On
the first ballot, Douglas received 145-1/2, Hunter of Virginia 42,
Guthrie of Kentucky 35-1/2; and the remaining thirty were divided
among several candidates. As 202 votes were necessary for a choice,
the hopelessness of the outlook was apparent to all. Nevertheless, the
balloting continued, the vote of Douglas increasing on four ballots to
152-1/2. After the thirty-sixth ballot, he failed to command more than
151-1/2. In all, fifty-seven ballots were taken.[833] On the tenth day
of the convention, it was voted to adjourn to meet at Baltimore, on
the 18th of June.

The followers of Douglas left Charleston with wrath in their hearts.
Chagrin and disappointment alternated with bitterness and resentment
toward their Southern brethren. Moreover, contact with the South, so
far from having lessened their latent distrust of its culture and
institutions, had widened the gulf between the sections. Such speeches
as that of Goulden of Georgia, who had boldly advocated the re-opening
of the African slave-trade, saying coarsely that "the African
slave-trade man is the Union man--the Christian man," caused a certain
ethical revolt in the feelings of men, hitherto not particularly
susceptible to moral appeals on the slavery question.[834] Added to
all these cumulative grievances was the uncomfortable probability,
that the next President was about to be nominated in the Republican
convention at Chicago.

What were the feelings of the individual who had been such a divisive
force in the Charleston convention? The country was not long left in
doubt. Douglas was quite ready to comment upon the outcome; and it
needed only the bitter arraignment of his theories by Davis, to bring
him armed _cap-a-pie_ into the arena.

Aided by his friend Pugh, who read long extracts from letters and
speeches, Douglas made a systematic review of Democratic principles
and policy since 1848. His object, of course, was to demonstrate his
own consistency, and at the same time to convict his critics of
apostasy from the party creed. There was, inevitably, much tiresome
repetition in all this. It was when he directed his remarks to the
issues at Charleston that Douglas warmed to his subject. He refused to
recognize the right of a caucus of the Senate or of the House, to
prescribe new tests, to draft party platforms. That was a task
reserved, under our political system, for national conventions, made
up of delegates chosen by the people. Tried by the standard of the
only Democratic organization competent to pronounce upon questions of
party faith, he was no longer a heretic, no longer an outlaw from the
Democratic party, no longer a rebel against the Democratic
organization. "The party decided at Charleston also, by a majority of
the whole electoral college, that I was the choice of the Democratic
party of America for the Presidency of the United States, giving me a
majority of fifty votes over all other candidates combined; and yet my
Democracy is questioned!" "But," he added, and there is no reason to
doubt his sincerity, "my friends who know me best know that I have no
personal desire or wish for the nomination;... know that my name never
would have been presented at Charleston, except for the attempt to
proscribe me as a heretic, too unsound to be the chairman of a
committee in this body, where I have held a seat for so many years
without a suspicion resting on my political fidelity. I was forced to
allow my name to go there in self-defense; and I will now say that
had any gentleman, friend or foe, received a majority of that
convention over me, the lightning would have carried a message
withdrawing my name from the convention."[835]

Douglas was ready to acquit his colleagues in the Senate of a purpose
to dissolve the Union, but he did not hesitate to assert that such
principles as Yancey had advocated at Charleston would lead "directly
and inevitably" to a dissolution of the Union. Why was the South so
eager to repudiate the principle of non-intervention? By it they had
converted New Mexico into slave Territory; by it, in all probability,
they would extend slavery into the northern States of Mexico, when
that region should be acquired. "Why," he asked, "are you not
satisfied with these practical results? The only difference of opinion
is on the judicial question, about which we agreed to differ--which we
never did decide; because, under the Constitution, no tribunal on
earth but the Supreme Court could decide it." To commit the Democratic
party to intervention was to make the party sectional and to invite
never-ceasing conflict. "Intervention, North or South, means disunion;
non-intervention promises peace, fraternity, and perpetuity to the
Union, and to all our cherished institutions."[836]

The challenge contained in these words was not permitted to pass
unanswered. Davis replied with offensive references to the "swelling
manner" and "egregious vanity" of the Senator from Illinois. He
resented such dictation.[837] On the following day, May 17th, an
exciting passage-at-arms occurred between these representatives of
the Northwest and the Southwest. Douglas repeated his belief that
disunion was the prompting motive which broke up the Charleston
convention. Davis resented the insinuation, with fervent protestations
of affection for the Union of the States. It was the Senator from
Illinois, who, in his pursuit of power, had prevented unanimity, by
trying to plant his theory upon the party. The South would have no
more to do with the "rickety, double-construed platform" of 1856. "The
fact is," said Davis, "I have a declining respect for platforms. I
would sooner have an honest man on any sort of a rickety platform you
could construct, than to have a man I did not trust on the best
platform which could be made. A good platform and an honest man on it
is what we want."[838] Douglas reminded his opponent sharply that the
bolters at Charleston seceded, not on the candidate, but on the
platform. "If the platform is not a matter of much consequence, why
press that question to the disruption of the party? Why did you not
tell us in the beginning of this debate that the whole fight was
against the man, and not upon the platform?"[839]

In the interval between the Charleston and the Baltimore conventions,
the Davis resolutions were pressed to a vote in the Senate, with the
purpose of shaping party opinion. They passed by votes which gave a
deceptive appearance of Democratic unanimity. Only Senator Pugh parted
company with his Democratic colleagues on the crucial resolution; yet
he represented the popular opinion at the North.[840] The futility of
these resolutions, so far as practical results were concerned, was
demonstrated by the adoption of Clingman's resolution, that the
existing condition of the Territories did not require the intervention
of Congress for the protection of property in slaves.[841] In other
words, the South was insisting upon rights which were barren of
practical significance. Slave-holders were insisting upon the right to
carry their slaves where local conditions were unfavorable, and where
therefore they had no intention of going.[842]

The nomination of Lincoln rather than Seward, at the Republican
convention in Chicago, was a bitter disappointment to those who felt
that the latter was the real leader of the party of moral ideas, and
that the rail-splitter was simply an "available" candidate.[843] But
Douglas, with keener insight into the character of Lincoln, said to a
group of Republicans at the Capitol, "Gentlemen, you have nominated a
very able and a very honest man."[844] For the candidate of the new
Constitutional Union party, which had rallied the politically
unattached of various opinions in a convention at Baltimore, Douglas
had no such words of praise, though he recognized John Bell as a
Unionist above suspicion and as an estimable gentleman.

These nominations rendered it still less prudent for Northern
Democrats to accept a candidate with stronger Southern leanings than
Douglas. No Northern Democrat could carry the Northern States on a
Southern platform; and no Southern Democrat would accept a nomination
on the Douglas platform. Unless some middle ground could be
found,--and the debates in the Senate had disclosed none,--the
Democrats of the North were bound to adhere to Douglas as their first
and only choice in the Baltimore convention.

When the delegates reassembled in Baltimore, the factional quarrel had
lost none of its bitterness. Almost immediately the convention fell
foul of a complicated problem of organization. Some of the original
delegates, who had withdrawn at Charleston, desired to be re-admitted.
From some States there were contesting delegations, notably from
Louisiana and Alabama, where the Douglas men had rallied in force.
Those anti-Douglas delegates who were still members of the convention,
made every effort to re-admit the delegations hostile to him. The
action of the convention turned upon the vote of the New York
delegation, which would be cast solidly either for or against the
admission of the contesting delegations. For three days the fate of
Douglas was in the hands of these thirty-five New Yorkers, in whom the
disposition to bargain was not wanting.[845] It was at this juncture
that Douglas wrote to Dean Richmond, the _Deus ex machina_ in the
delegation,[846] "If my enemies are determined to divide and destroy
the Democratic party, and perhaps the country, rather than see me
elected, and if the unity of the party can be preserved, and its
ascendancy perpetuated by dropping my name and uniting upon some
reliable non-intervention and Union-loving Democrat, I beseech you, in
consultation with my friends, to pursue that course which will save
the country, without regard to my individual interests. I mean all
this letter implies. Consult freely and act boldly for the

It was precisely the "if's" in this letter that gave the New Yorkers
most concern. Where was the candidate who possessed these
qualifications and who would be acceptable to the South? On the fifth
day of the convention, the contesting Douglas delegations were
admitted. The die was cast. A portion of the Virginia delegation then
withdrew, and their example was followed by nearly all the delegates
from North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Maryland. If the first
withdrawal at Charleston presaged the secession of the cotton States
from the Union, this pointed to the eventual secession of the border

On June 23d, the convention proceeded to ballot. Douglas received
173-1/2 votes; Guthrie 10; and Breckinridge 5; scattering 3. On the
second ballot, Douglas received all but thirteen votes; whereupon it
was moved and carried unanimously with a tremendous shout that
Douglas, having received "two-thirds of all votes given in this
convention," should be the nominee of the party.[848] Colonel
Richardson then begged leave to have the Secretary read a letter from
Senator Douglas. He had carried it in his pocket for three days, but
the course of the bolters, he said, had prevented him from using
it.[849] The letter was of the same tenor as that written to Dean
Richmond. There is little likelihood that an earlier acquaintance with
its contents would have changed the course of events, since so long
as the platform stood unaltered, the choice of Douglas was a logical
and practical necessity. Douglas and the platform were one and

Meantime the bolters completed their destructive work by organizing a
separate convention in Baltimore, by adopting the report of the
majority in the Charleston convention as their platform, and by
nominating John C. Breckinridge as their candidate for the presidency.
Lane of Oregon was named for the second place on the ticket for much
the same reason that Fitzpatrick of Alabama, and subsequently Herschel
V. Johnson of Georgia, was put upon the Douglas ticket. Both factions
desired to demonstrate that they were national Democrats, with
adherents in all sections. In his letter of acceptance Douglas rang
the changes on the sectional character of the doctrine of intervention
either for or against slavery. "If the power and duty of Federal
interference is to be conceded, two hostile sectional parties must be
the inevitable result--the one inflaming the passions and ambitions of
the North, the other of the South."[850] Indeed, his best,--his
only,--chance of success lay in his power to appeal to conservative,
Union-loving men, North and South. This was the secret purpose of his
frequent references to Clay and Webster, who were invoked as
supporters of "the essential, living principle of 1850"; _i.e._ his
own doctrine of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the
Territories. But the Constitutional Union party was quite as likely to
attract the remnant of the old Whig party of Clay and Webster.

Douglas began his campaign in excellent spirits. His only regret was
that he had been placed in a position where he had to look on and see
a fight without taking a hand in it.[851] The New York _Times_, whose
editor followed the campaign of Douglas with the keenest interest,
without indorsing him, frankly conceded that popular sovereignty had a
very strong hold upon the instinct of nine-tenths of the American
people.[852] Douglas wrote to his Illinois confidant in high spirits
after the ratification meeting in New York.[853] Conceding South
Carolina and possibly Mississippi to Breckinridge, and the border
slave States to Bell, he expressed the firm conviction that he would
carry the rest of the Southern States and enough free States to be
elected by the people. Richardson had just returned from New England,
equally confident that Douglas would carry Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode
Island, and Connecticut. If the election should go to the House of
Representatives, Douglas calculated that Lincoln, Bell, and he would
be the three candidates. In any event, he was sure that Breckinridge
and Lane had "no show." He enjoined his friends everywhere to treat
the Bell and Everett men in a friendly way and to cultivate good
relations with them, "for they are Union men." But, he added, "we can
have no partnership with the Bolters." "Now organize and rally in
Illinois and the Northwest. The chances in our favor are immense in
the East. Organize the State!"

Buoyed up by these sanguine expectations, Douglas undertook a tour
through New England, not to make stump speeches, he declared, but to
visit and enhearten his followers. Yet at every point on the way to
Boston, he was greeted with enthusiasm; and whenever time permitted he
responded with brief allusions to the political situation. As the
guest of Harvard University, at the alumni dinner, he was called upon
to speak--not, to be sure, as a candidate for the presidency, but as
one high in the councils of the nation, and as a generous contributor
to the founding of an educational institution in Chicago.[854] A visit
to Bunker Hill suggested the great principle for which our
Revolutionary fathers fought and for which all good Democrats were now
contending.[855] At Springfield, too, he harked back to the Revolution
and to the beginnings of the great struggle for control of domestic

Along the route from Boston to Saratoga, he was given ovations, and
his diffidence about making stump speeches lessened perceptibly.[857]
At Troy, he made a political speech in his own vigorous style,
remarking apologetically that if he did not return home soon, he would
"get to making stump speeches before he knew it."[858] Passing through
Vermont, he visited the grave of his father and the scenes of his
childhood; and here and there, as he told the people of Concord with a
twinkle in his eye, he spoke "a little just for exercise." Providence
recalled the memory of Roger Williams and the principles for which he
suffered--principles so nearly akin to those for which Democrats
to-day were laboring. By this time the true nature of this pilgrimage
was apparent to everybody. It was the first time in our history that a
presidential candidate had taken the stump in his own behalf. There
was bitter criticism on the part of those who regretted the departure
from decorous precedent.[859] When Douglas reached Newport for a brief
sojourn, the expectation was generally entertained that he would
continue in retirement for the remainder of the campaign.

Except for this anomaly of a candidate canvassing in his own behalf,
the campaign was devoid of exciting incidents. The personal canvass of
Douglas was indeed almost the only thing that kept the campaign from
being dull and spiritless.[860] Republican politicians were somewhat
at a loss to understand why he should manoeuvre in a section devoted
beyond question to Lincoln. Indeed, a man far less keen than Douglas
would have taken note of the popular current in New England. Why,
then, this expenditure of time and effort! In all probability Douglas
gauged the situation correctly. He is said to have conceded frankly
that Lincoln would be elected.[861] His contest was less with
Republicans and Constitutional Unionists now, than with the followers
of Breckinridge. He hoped to effect a reorganization of the Democratic
party by crushing the disunion elements within it. With this end in
view he could not permit the organization to go to pieces in the
North. A listless campaign on his part would not only give the
election to Lincoln, but leave his own followers to wander leaderless
into other organizations. For the sake of discipline and future
success, he rallied Northern Democrats for a battle that was already

Well assured that Lincoln would be elected, Douglas determined to go
South and prepare the minds of the people for the inevitable.[863] The
language of Southern leaders had grown steadily more menacing as the
probability of Republican success increased. It was now proclaimed
from the house-tops that the cotton States would secede, if Lincoln
were elected. Republicans might set these threats down as Southern
gasconade, but Douglas knew the animus of the secessionists better
than they.[864] This determination of Douglas was warmly applauded
where it was understood.[865] Indeed, that purpose was dictated now
alike by politics and patriotism.

On August 25th, Douglas spoke at Norfolk, Virginia. In the course of
his address, an elector on the Breckinridge ticket interrupted him
with two questions. Though taken somewhat by surprise, Douglas with
unerring sagacity detected the purpose of his interrogator and
answered circumstantially.[866] "First, If Abraham Lincoln be elected
President of the United States, will the Southern States be justified
in seceding from the Union?" "To this I emphatically answer no. The
election of a man to the presidency by the American people in
conformity with the Constitution of the United States _would not
justify any attempt at dissolving this glorious confederacy_."
"Second, If they secede from the Union upon the inauguration of
Abraham Lincoln, before an overt act against their constitutional
rights, will you advise or vindicate resistance to the decision!" "I
answer emphatically, that it is the duty of the President of the
United States and of all others in authority under him, to enforce the
laws of the United States, passed by Congress and as the Courts
expound them; and I, as in duty bound by my oath of fidelity to the
Constitution, _would do all in my power to aid the government of the
United States in maintaining the supremacy of the laws against all
resistance to them, come from whatever quarter it might_.... I hold
that the Constitution has a remedy for every grievance that may arise
within the limits of the Union.... The mere inauguration of a
President of the United States, whose political opinions were, in my
judgment, hostile to the Constitution and safety of the Union, without
an overt act on his part, without striking a blow at our institutions
or our rights, is not such a grievance as would justify revolution or
secession." But for the disunionists at the South, Douglas went on to
say, "I would have beaten Lincoln in every State but Vermont and
Massachusetts. As it is I think I will beat him in almost all of them
yet."[867] And now these disunionists come forward and ask aid in
dissolving the Union. "I tell them 'no--never on earth!'"

Widely quoted, this bold defiance of disunion made a profound
impression through the South. At Raleigh, North Carolina, Douglas
entered into collusion with a friend, in order to have the questions
repeated.[868] And again he stated his attitude in unequivocal
language. "I am in favor of executing, in good faith, every clause and
provision of the Constitution, and of protecting every right under it,
and then hanging every man who takes up arms against it. Yes, my
friends, I would hang every man higher than Haman who would attempt to
resist by force the execution of any provision of the Constitution
which our fathers made and bequeathed to us."[869]

He touched many hearts when he reminded his hearers that in the great
Northwest, Northerners and Southerners met and married, bequeathing
the choice gifts of both sections to their children. "When their
children grow up, the child of the same parents has a grandfather in
North Carolina and another in Vermont, and that child does not like to
hear either of those States abused.... He will never consent that this
Union shall be dissolved so that he will be compelled to obtain a
passport and get it _viséd_ to enter a foreign land to visit the
graves of his ancestors. You cannot sever this Union unless you cut
the heart strings that bind father to son, daughter to mother, and
brother to sister, in all our new States and territories." And the
heart of the speaker went out to his kindred and his boys, who were
almost within hearing of his voice. "I love my children," he
exclaimed, "but I do not desire to see them survive this Union."

At Richmond, Douglas received an ovation which recalled the days when
Clay was the idol of the Whigs;[870] but as he journeyed northward he
felt more and more the hostility of Breckinridge men, and marked the
disposition of many of his own supporters to strike an alliance with
them. Unhesitatingly he threw the weight of his personal influence
against fusion. At Baltimore, he averred that while Breckinridge was
not a disunionist, every disunionist was a Breckinridge man.[871] And
at Reading, he said, "For one, I can never fuse, and never will fuse
with a man who tells me that the Democratic creed is a dogma, contrary
to reason and to the Constitution.... I have fought twenty-seven
pitched battles, since I entered public life, and never yet traded
with nominations or surrendered to treachery."[872] With equal
pertinacity he refused to countenance any attempts at fusion in North
Carolina.[873] Even more explicitly he declared against fusion in a
speech at Erie: "No Democrat can, without dishonor, and a forfeiture
of self-respect and principle, fuse with anybody who is in favor of
intervention, either for or against slavery.... As Democrats we can
never fuse either with Northern Abolitionists or Southern Bolters and

In spite of these protests and admonitions, Douglas men in several of
the doubtful States entered into more or less definite agreement with
the supporters of Breckinridge. The pressure put upon him in New York
by those to whom he was indebted for his nomination, was almost too
strong to be resisted. Yet he withstood all entreaties, even to
maintain a discreet silence and let events take their course. Hostile
newspapers expressed his sentiments when they represented him as
opposed to fusion, "all the way from Maine to California."[875]
"Douglas either must have lost his craft as a politician," commented
Raymond, in the editorial columns of the _Times_, "or be credited with
steadfast convictions."[876]

Adverse comment on Douglas's personal canvass had now ceased. Wise men
recognized that he was preparing the public mind for a crisis, as no
one else could. He set his face westward, speaking at numerous
points.[877] Continuous speaking had now begun to tell upon him. At
Cincinnati, he was so hoarse that he could not address the crowds
which had gathered to greet him, but he persisted in speaking on the
following day at Indianapolis. He paused in Chicago only long enough
to give a public address, and then passed on into Iowa.[878] Among his
own people he unbosomed himself as he had not done before in all these
weeks of incessant public speaking. "I am no alarmist. I believe that
this country is in more danger now than at any other moment since I
have known anything of public life. It is not personal ambition that
has induced me to take the stump this year. I say to you who know me,
that the presidency has no charms for me. I do not believe that it is
my interest as an ambitious man, to be President this year if I could.
But I do love this Union. There is no sacrifice on earth that I would
not make to preserve it."[879]

While Douglas was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he received a dispatch from
his friend, Forney, announcing that the Republicans had carried
Pennsylvania in the October State election. Similar intelligence came
from Indiana. The outcome in November was thus clearly foreshadowed.
Recognizing the inevitable, Douglas turned to his Secretary with the
laconic words, "Mr. Lincoln is the next President. We must try to save
the Union. I will go South."[880] He at once made appointments to
speak in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, as soon as he should have
met his Western engagements. His friends marvelled at his powers of
endurance. For weeks he had been speaking from hotel balconies, from
the platform of railroad coaches, and in halls to monster
mass-meetings.[881] Not infrequently he spoke twice and thrice a day,
for days together. It was often said that he possessed the
constitution of the United States; and he caught up the jest with
delight, remarking that he believed he had. Small wonder if much that
he said was trivial and unworthy of his attention;[882] in and through
all his utterance, nevertheless, coursed the passionate current of his
love for the Union, transfiguring all that was paltry and commonplace.
From Iowa he passed into Wisconsin and Michigan, finally entering
upon his Southern mission at St. Louis, October 19th. "I am not here
to-night," he told his auditors, with a shade of weariness in his
voice, "to ask your votes for the presidency. I am not one of those
who believe that I have any more personal interest in the presidency
than any other good citizen in America. I am here to make an appeal to
you in behalf of the Union and the peace of the country."[883]

It was a courageous little party that left St. Louis for Memphis and
the South. Mrs. Douglas was still with her husband, determined to
share all the hardships that fell to his lot; and besides her, there
was only James B. Sheridan, Douglas's devoted secretary and
stenographer. The Southern press had threatened Douglas with personal
violence, if he should dare to invade the South with his political
heresies.[884] But Luther bound for Worms was not more indifferent to
personal danger than this modern intransigeant. His conduct earned the
hearty admiration of even Republican journals, for no one could now
believe that he courted the South in his own behalf. Nor was there any
foolish bravado in this adventure. He was thoroughly sobered by the
imminence of disunion. When he read, in a newspaper devoted to his
interests, that it was "the deep-seated fixed determination on the
part of the leading Southern States to go out of the Union, peaceably
and quietly," he knew that these words were no cheap rhetoric, for
they were penned by a man of Northern birth and antecedents.[885]

The history of this Southern tour has never been written. It was the
firm belief of Douglas that at least one attempt was made to wreck his
train. At Montgomery, while addressing a public gathering, he was made
the target for nameless missiles.[886] Yet none of these adventures
were permitted to find their way into the Northern press. And only his
intimates learned of them from his own lips after his return.

The news of Mr. Lincoln's election overtook Douglas in Mobile. He was
in the office of the Mobile _Register_, one of the few newspapers
which had held to him and his cause through thick and thin. It now
became a question what policy the paper should pursue. The editor
asked his associate to read aloud an article which he had just
written, advocating a State convention to deliberate upon the course
of Alabama in the approaching crisis. Douglas opposed its publication;
but he was assured that the only way to manage the secession movement
was to appear to go with it, and by electing men opposed to disunion,
to control the convention. With his wonted sagacity, Douglas remarked
that if they could not prevent the calling of a convention, they could
hardly hope to control its action. But the editors determined to
publish the article, "and Douglas returned to his hotel more hopeless
than I had ever seen him before," wrote Sheridan.[887]

On his return to the North, Douglas spoke twice, at New Orleans and at
Vicksburg, urging acquiescence in the result of the election.[888] He
put the case most cogently in a letter to the business men of New
Orleans, which was widely published. No one deplored the election of an
Abolitionist as President more than he. Still, he could not find any
just cause for dissolving the Federal Union in the mere election of any
man to the presidency, in accordance with the Constitution. Those who
apprehended that the new President would carry out the aggressive
policy of his party, failed to observe that his party was in a
minority. Even his appointments to office would have to be confirmed by
a hostile Senate. Any invasion of constitutional rights would be
resented in the North, as well as in the South. In short, the election
of Mr. Lincoln could only serve as a pretext for those who purposed to
break up the Union and to form a Southern Confederacy.[889]

On the face of the election returns, Douglas made a sorry showing; he
had won the electoral vote of but a single State, Missouri, though
three of the seven electoral votes of New Jersey fell to him as the
result of fusion. Yet as the popular vote in the several States was
ascertained, defeat wore the guise of a great personal triumph. Leader
of a forlorn hope, he had yet received the suffrages of 1,376,957
citizens, only 489,495 less votes than Lincoln had polled. Of these
163,525 came from the South, while Lincoln received only 26,430, all
from the border slave States. As compared with the vote of
Breckinridge and Bell at the South, Douglas's vote was insignificant;
but at the North, he ran far ahead of the combined vote of both.[890]
It goes without saying that had Douglas secured the full Democratic
vote in the free States, he would have pressed Lincoln hard in many
quarters. From the national standpoint, the most significant aspect of
the popular vote was the failure of Breckinridge to secure a majority
in the slave States.[891] Union sentiment was still stronger than the
secessionists had boasted. The next most significant fact in the
history of the election was this: Abraham Lincoln had been elected to
the presidency by the vote of a section which had given over a million
votes to his rival, the leader of a faction of a disorganized party.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 810: Flint, Douglas, pp. 205-207.]

[Footnote 811: _Ibid._, pp. 207-209.]

[Footnote 812: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 421.]

[Footnote 813: _Ibid._, pp. 424-425.]

[Footnote 814: _Ibid._, p. 553.]

[Footnote 815: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., pp. 554-555.]

[Footnote 816: _Ibid._, p. 559.]

[Footnote 817: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 658. For the final
version, see p. 935.]

[Footnote 818: Halstead, Political Conventions of 1860, p. 59.]

[Footnote 819: _Ibid._, p. 29.]

[Footnote 820: _Ibid._, p. 5.]

[Footnote 821: _Ibid._, pp. 9 and 20.]

[Footnote 822: Halstead, Political Conventions of 1860, pp. 12-13.]

[Footnote 823: _Ibid._, p. 8.]

[Footnote 824: _Ibid._, p. 36.]

[Footnote 825: Especially in securing votes from the delegations of
Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where the influence of the
administration was strong. Halstead, Political Conventions of 1860,
pp. 25-28.]

[Footnote 826: Halstead, Political Conventions of 1860, p. 36.]

[Footnote 827: Stanwood, History of the Presidency, pp. 283-288.]

[Footnote 828: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 446.]

[Footnote 829: _Ibid._, p. 448.]

[Footnote 830: Halstead, Political Conventions of 1860, p. 49.]

[Footnote 831: _Ibid._, p. 50.]

[Footnote 832: _Ibid._, pp. 74-75.]

[Footnote 833: Proceedings of the National Democratic Convention, pp.

[Footnote 834: Halstead, Political Conventions of 1860, p. 78.]

[Footnote 835: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., App., p. 313.]

[Footnote 836: _Ibid._, p. 316.]

[Footnote 837: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 2120.]

[Footnote 838: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 2155.]

[Footnote 839: _Ibid._, p. 2156.]

[Footnote 840: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 456.]

[Footnote 841: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 1 Sess., p. 2344.]

[Footnote 842: See Wise, Life of Henry A. Wise, pp. 264-265.]

[Footnote 843: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 472.]

[Footnote 844: _Ibid._, p. 472.]

[Footnote 845: Halstead, Political Conventions of 1860, pp. 227-228.]

[Footnote 846: _Ibid._, pp. 194-195.]

[Footnote 847: The letter was written at Washington, June 22d, at 9:30

[Footnote 848: Stanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 286; Halstead,
Political Conventions of 1860, p. 211.]

[Footnote 849: Halstead, p. 216.]

[Footnote 850: Flint, Douglas, pp. 213-215.]

[Footnote 851: New York _Times_, July 3, 1860.]

[Footnote 852: _Ibid._, June 26.]

[Footnote 853: MS. letter, Douglas to C.H. Lanphier, July 5, 1860. He
wrote in a similar vein to a friend in Missouri, July 4, 1860.]

[Footnote 854: New York _Times_, July 20, 1860.]

[Footnote 855: _Ibid._, July 21.]

[Footnote 856: _Ibid._, July 21.]

[Footnote 857: _Ibid._, July 24.]

[Footnote 858: _Ibid._, July 28.]

[Footnote 859: New York _Times_, July. 24.]

[Footnote 860: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 482-483.]

[Footnote 861: Wilson, Slave Power in America, II, p. 699.]

[Footnote 862: This was the view of a well-informed correspondent of
the New York _Times_, August 10, 14, 16, 1860. From this point of
view, Douglas's tour through Maine in August takes on special

[Footnote 863: Wilson, Slave Power in America, II, 699.]

[Footnote 864: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, pp. 487,

[Footnote 865: New York _Times_, August 16, 1860.]

[Footnote 866: _Ibid._, August 29, 1860.]

[Footnote 867: This can hardly be regarded as a sober opinion.
Clingman had become convinced by conversation with Douglas that he was
not making the canvass in his own behalf, but in order to weaken and
divide the South, so as to aid Lincoln. Clingman, Speeches and
Writings, p. 513.]

[Footnote 868: Clingman, Speeches and Writings, p. 513.]

[Footnote 869: North Carolina _Standard_, September 5, 1860.]

[Footnote 870: Correspondent to New York _Times_, September 5, 1860.]

[Footnote 871: _Ibid._, September 7, 1860.]

[Footnote 872: New York _Tribune_, September 10, 1860. Greeley did
Douglas an injustice when he accused him of courting votes by favoring
a protective tariff in Pennsylvania. The misapprehension was doubtless
due to a garbled associated press dispatch.]

[Footnote 873: Clingman, Speeches and Writings, p. 513.]

[Footnote 874: New York _Times_, September 27, 1860.]

[Footnote 875: New York _Times_, September 13, 1860.]

[Footnote 876: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 877: His movements were still followed by the New York
_Times_, which printed his list of appointments.]

[Footnote 878: Chicago _Times_ and _Herald_, October 9, 1860.]

[Footnote 879: Chicago _Times and Herald_, October 6, 1860.]

[Footnote 880: Wilson, Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America,
II, p. 700; see also Forney's Eulogy of Douglas, 1861.]

[Footnote 881: Rhodes, History of the United States, II, p. 493.]

[Footnote 882: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 883: Chicago _Times and Herald_, October 24, 1860.]

[Footnote 884: Philadelphia _Press_, October 29, 1860.]

[Footnote 885: Savannah (Ga.) _Express_, quoted by Chicago _Times and
Herald_, October 25, 1860.]

[Footnote 886: There was a bare reference to the Montgomery incident
in the Chicago _Times and Herald_, November 12, 1860.]

[Footnote 887: Wilson, Slave Power in America, II, p. 700.]

[Footnote 888: Chicago _Times and Herald_, November 13, 1860;
Philadelphia _Press_, November 28, 1860.]

[Footnote 889: Chicago _Times and Herald_, November 19, 1860.]

[Footnote 890: Stanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 297.]

[Footnote 891: Douglas and Bell polled 135,057 votes more than
Breckinridge; see Greeley, American Conflict, I, p. 328.]



On the day after the election, the palmetto and lone star flag was
thrown out to the breeze from the office of the Charleston _Mercury_
and hailed with cheers by the populace. "The tea has been thrown
overboard--the revolution of 1860 has been initiated," said that
ebullient journal next morning.[892] On the 10th of November, the
legislature of South Carolina called a convention of the people to
consider the relations of the Commonwealth "with the Northern States
and the government of the United States." The instantaneous approval
of the people of Charleston, the focus of public opinion in the State,
left no doubt that South Carolina would secede from the Union soon
after the 17th of December, when the convention was to assemble. On
November 23d, Major Robert Anderson, in command of Fort Moultrie in
Charleston harbor, urged the War Department to reinforce his garrison
and to occupy also Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney, saying, "I need
not say how anxious I am--indeed, determined, so far as honor will
permit--to avoid collision with the citizens of South Carolina.
Nothing, however, will be better calculated to prevent bloodshed than
our being found in such an attitude that it would be madness and folly
to attack us." "That there is a settled determination," he continued,
"to leave the Union, and to obtain possession of this work, is
apparent to all."[893] No sane man could doubt that a crisis was
imminent. Unhappily, James Buchanan was still President of the United

To those who greeted Judge Douglas upon his return to Washington, he
seemed to be in excellent health, despite rumors to the contrary.[894]
Demonstrative followers insisted upon hearing his voice immediately
upon his arrival, and he was not unwilling to repeat what he had said
at New Orleans, here within hearing of men of all sections. The burden
of his thought was contained in a single sentence: "Mr. Lincoln,
having been elected, must be inaugurated in obedience to the
Constitution." "Fellow citizens," he said, in his rich, sonorous
voice, sounding the key-note of his subsequent career, "I beseech you,
with reference to former party divisions, to lay aside all political
asperities, all personal prejudices, to indulge in no criminations or
recriminations, but to unite with me, and all Union-loving men, in a
common effort to save the country from the disasters which threaten

In the midst of forebodings which even the most optimistic shared,
Congress reassembled. Feeling was tense in both houses, but it was
more noticeable in the Senate, where, hitherto, political differences
had not been a barrier to social intercourse. Senator Iverson put into
words what all felt: "Look at the spectacle exhibited on this floor.
How is it? There are Republican Northern senators upon that side. Here
are Southern senators on this side. How much social intercourse is
there between us? You sit upon your side, silent and gloomy; we sit
upon ours with knit brows and portentous scowls.... Here are two
hostile bodies on this floor; and it is but a type of the feeling that
exists between the two sections."[896]

Southern senators hastened to lay bare their grievances. However much
they might differ in naming specific, tangible ills, they all agreed
upon the great cause of their apprehension and uneasiness. Davis
voiced the common feeling when he said, "I believe the true cause of
our danger to be that a sectional hostility has been substituted for a
general fraternity."[897] And his colleague confirmed this opinion.
Clingman put the same thought more concretely when he declared that
the South was apprehensive, not because a dangerous man had been
elected to the presidency; but because a President had been elected
who was known to be a dangerous man and who had declared his purpose
to war upon the social system of the South.[898]

With the utmost boldness, Southern senators announced the impending
secession of their States. "We intend," said Iverson of Georgia
speaking for his section, "to go out peaceably if we can, forcibly if
we must.... In this state of feeling, divided as we are by interests,
by a geographical feeling, by everything that makes two people
separate and distinct, I ask why we should remain in the same Union

No Northern senator had better reason than Douglas to believe that
these were not merely idle threats. The knowledge sobered him. In this
hour of peril, his deep love for the Union welled up within him,
submerging the partisan and the politician. "I trust," he said,
rebuking a Northern senator, "we may lay aside all party grievances,
party feuds, partisan jealousies, and look to our country, and not to
our party, in the consequences of our action. Sir, I am as good a
party man as anyone living, when there are only party issues at stake,
and the fate of political parties to be provided for. But, Sir, if I
know myself, I do not desire to hear the word party, or to listen to
any party appeal, while we are considering and discussing the
questions upon which the fate of the country now hangs."[900]

In this spirit Douglas welcomed from the South the recital of special
grievances. "Give us each charge and each specification.... I hold
that there is no grievance growing out of a nonfulfillment of
constitutional obligations, which cannot be remedied under the
Constitution and within the Union."[901] And when the Personal Liberty
Acts of Northern States were cited as a long-standing grievance, he
heartily denounced them as in direct violation of the letter and the
spirit of the Constitution. At the same time he contended that these
acts existed generally in the States to which few fugitives ever fled,
and that the Fugitive Slave Act was enforced nineteen out of twenty
times. It was the twentieth case that was published abroad through the
press, misleading the South. In fact, the present excitement was, to
his mind, due to the inability of the extremes of North and South to
understand each other. "Those of us that live upon the border, and
have commercial intercourse and social relations across the line, can
live in peace with each other." If the border slave States and the
border free States could arbitrate the question of slavery, the Union
would last forever.[902]

Arbitration and compromise--these were the words with which the
venerable Crittenden of Kentucky, successor to Clay, now endeavored to
rally Union-loving men. He was seconded by his colleague, Senator
Powell, who had already moved the appointment of a special committee
of thirteen, to consider the grievances between the slave-holding and
non-slave-holding States. Douglas put himself unreservedly at the
service of the party of compromise. It seemed, for the moment, as
though the history of the year 1850 were to be repeated. Now, as then,
the initiative was taken by a senator from the border-State of
Kentucky. Again a committee of thirteen was to prepare measures of
adjustment. The composition of the committee was such as to give
promise of a settlement, if any were possible. Seward, Collamer, Wade,
Doolittle, and Grimes, were the Republican members; Douglas, Rice, and
Bigler represented the Democracy of the North. Davis and Toombs
represented the Gulf States; Powell, Crittenden, and Hunter, the
border slave States.[903]

On the 22d of December, the committee took under consideration the
Crittenden resolutions, which proposed six amendments to the
Constitution and four joint resolutions. The crucial point was the
first amendment, which would restore the Missouri Compromise line "in
all the territory of the United States now held, or hereafter
acquired." Could this disposition of the vexing territorial question
have been agreed upon, the other features of the compromise would
probably have commanded assent. But this and all the other proposed
amendments were defeated by the adverse vote of the Republican members
of the committee.[904]

The outcome was disheartening. Douglas had firmly believed that
conciliation, or concession, alone could save the country from civil
war.[905] When the committee first met informally[906] the news was
already in print that the South Carolina convention had passed an
ordinance of secession. Under the stress of this event, and of others
which he apprehended, Douglas had voted for all the Crittenden
amendments and resolutions, regardless of his personal predilections.
"The prospects are gloomy," he wrote privately, "but I do not yet
despair of the Union. _We can never acknowledge the right of a State
to secede and cut us off from the ocean and the world, without our
consent._ But in view of impending civil war with our brethren in
nearly one-half of the States of the Union, I will not consider the
question of force and war until all efforts at peaceful adjustment
have been made and have failed. The fact can no longer be disguised
that many of the Republican leaders desire war and disunion under
pretext of saving the Union. They wish to get rid of the Southern
senators in order to have a majority in the Senate to confirm
Lincoln's appointments; and many of them think they can hold a
permanent Republican ascendancy in the Northern States, but not in
the whole Union. For partisan reasons, therefore, they are anxious to
dissolve the Union, if it can be done without making them responsible
before the people. I am for the Union, and am ready to make any
reasonable sacrifice to save it. No adjustment will restore and
preserve peace _which does not banish the slavery question from
Congress forever_ and place it beyond the reach of Federal
legislation. Mr. Crittenden's proposition to extend the Missouri line
accomplishes this object, and hence I can accept it now for the same
reasons that I proposed it in 1848. I prefer our own plan of
non-intervention and popular sovereignty, however."[907]

The propositions which Douglas laid before the committee proved to be
even less acceptable than the Crittenden amendments. Only a single,
insignificant provision relating to the colonizing of free negroes in
distant lands, commended itself to a majority of the committee.[908]
All hope of an agreement had now vanished. Sad at heart, Douglas voted
to report the inability of the committee to agree upon any general
plan of adjustment.[909] Yet he did not abandon all hope; he was not
yet ready to admit that the dread alternative must be accepted. He
joined with Crittenden in replying to a dispatch from the South: "We
have hopes that the rights of the South, and of every State and
section, may be protected within the Union. Don't give up the ship.
Don't despair of the Republic."[910] And when Crittenden proposed to
the Senate that the people at large should be allowed to express their
approval, or disapproval, of his amendments by a vote, Douglas
cordially indorsed the suggested referendum in a speech of great

There was dross mingled with the gold in this speech of January 3d.
Not all his auditors by any means were ready to admit that the attempt
of the Federal government to control the slavery question in the
Territories, regardless of the wishes of the inhabitants, was the real
cause of Southern discontent. Nor were all willing to concede that
"whenever Congress had refrained from such interference, harmony and
fraternal feeling had been restored."[911] The history of Kansas was
still too recent. Yet from these premises, Douglas drew the conclusion
"that the slavery question should be banished forever from the Halls
of Congress and the arena of Federal politics by an irrepealable
constitutional provision."[912]

The immediate occasion for revolution in the South was no doubt the
outcome of the presidential election; but that it furnished a just
cause for the dissolution of the Union, he would not for an instant
admit. No doubt Mr. Lincoln's public utterances had given some ground
for apprehension. No one had more vigorously denounced these
dangerous, revolutionary doctrines than he; but neither Mr. Lincoln
nor his party would have the power to injure the South, if the
Southern States remained in the Union and maintained full delegations
in Congress. "Besides," he added, "I still indulge the hope that when
Mr. Lincoln shall assume the high responsibilities which will soon
devolve upon him, he will be fully impressed with the necessity of
sinking the politician in the statesman, the partisan in the patriot,
and regard the obligations which he owes to his country as paramount
to those of his party."[913]

No one brought the fearful alternatives into view, with such
inexorable logic, as Douglas in this same speech. While he denounced
secession as "wrong, unlawful, unconstitutional, and criminal," he was
bound to recognize the fact of secession. "South Carolina had no right
to secede; _but she has done it_. The rights of the Federal government
remain, but possession is lost. How can possession be regained, by
arms or by a peaceable adjustment of the matters in controversy? _Are
we prepared for war?_ I do not mean that kind of preparation which
consists of armies and navies, and supplies, and munitions of war; but
are we prepared IN OUR HEARTS for war with our own brethren and
kindred? I confess I am not."[914]

These were not mere words for oratorical effect. They were expressions
wrung from a tortured heart, bound by some of the tenderest of human
affections to the people of the South. Buried in the land of her birth
rested the mother of his two boys, whom he had loved tenderly and
truly. There in the Southland were her kindred, the kindred of his two
boys, and many of his warmest personal friends. The prospect of war
brought no such poignant grief to men whose associations for
generations had been confined to the North.

Returning to the necessity of concession and compromise, he frankly
admitted that he had thrown consistency to the winds. The preservation
of the Union was of more importance than party platforms or individual
records. "I have no hesitation in saying to senators on all sides of
this Chamber, that I am prepared to act on this question with
reference to the present exigencies of the case, as if I had never
given a vote, or uttered a word, or had an opinion upon the

Nor did he hesitate to throw the responsibility for disagreement in
the Committee of Thirteen upon the Republican members. In the name of
peace he pled for less of party pride and the pride of individual
opinion. "The political party which shall refuse to allow the people
to determine for themselves at the ballot-box the issue between
revolution and war on the one side, and obstinate adherence to a party
platform on the other, will assume a fearful responsibility. A war
upon a political issue, waged by the people of eighteen States against
the people and domestic institutions of fifteen sister-States, is a
fearful and revolting thought."[916] But Republican senators were deaf
to all warnings from so recent a convert to non-partisan politics.

While the Committee of Thirteen was in session, Major Anderson moved
his garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor,
urging repeatedly the need of reinforcements. At the beginning of the
new year, President Buchanan was inspired to form a good resolution.
He resolved that Anderson should not be ordered to return to Moultrie
but should be reinforced. On the 5th of January, the "Star of the
West," with men, arms and ammunition, was dispatched to Charleston
harbor. On the 9th the steamer was fired upon and forced to return
without accomplishing its mission. Then came the news of the secession
of Mississippi. In rapid succession Florida, Alabama, and Georgia
passed ordinances of secession.[917] Louisiana and Texas were sure to
follow the lead of the other cotton States.

In spite of these untoward events, the Republican senators remained
obdurate. Their answer to the Crittenden referendum proposition was
the Clark resolution, which read, "The provisions of the Constitution
are ample for the preservation of the Union, and the protection of all
the material interests of the country; it needs to be obeyed rather
than amended."[918] On the 21st of the month, the senators of the
seceding States withdrew; yet Douglas could still say to anxious Union
men at the South, "There is hope of adjustment, and the prospect has
never been better than since we first assembled."[919] And Senator
Crittenden concurred in this view. On what could they have grounded
their hopes?

Douglas still believed in the efficacy of compromise to preserve the
Union. Through many channels he received intelligence from the South,
and he knew well that the leaders of public opinion were not of one
mind. Some, at least, regarded the proposed Southern confederacy as a
means of securing a revision of the Constitution. Men like Benjamin of
Louisiana were still ready to talk confidentially of a final
adjustment.[920] Moreover, there was a persistent rumor that Seward
was inclining to the Crittenden Compromise; and Seward, as the
prospective leader of the incoming administration, would doubtless
carry many Republicans with him. Something, too, might be expected
from the Peace Convention, which was to meet on February 4th, in

Meantime Douglas lent his aid to such legislative labors as the
exigencies of the hour permitted. Once again, he found himself acting
with the Republicans to do justice to Kansas, for Kansas was now a
suppliant for admission into the Union with a free constitution. Again
specious excuses were made for denying simple justice. Toward the
obstructionists, his old enemies, Douglas showed no rancor: there was
no time to lose in personalities. "The sooner we close up this
controversy the better, if we intend to wipe out the excited and
irritated feelings that have grown out of it. It will have a tendency
to restore good feelings."[921] But not until the Southern senators
had withdrawn, was Kansas admitted to the Union of the States, which
was then hanging in the balance.

Whenever senators from the slave States could be induced to name
their tangible grievances, and not to dwell merely upon anticipated
injuries, they were wont to cite the Personal Liberty Acts. In spite
of his good intentions, Douglas was drawn into an altercation with
Mason of Virginia, in which he cited an historic case where Virginia
had been the offender. Recovering himself, he said ingenuously, "I
hope we are not to bandy these little cases backwards and forwards for
the purpose of sectional irritation. Let us rather meet the question,
and give the Constitution the true construction, and allow all
criminals to be surrendered according to the law of the State where
the offense was committed."[922]

As evidence of his desire to remove this most tangible of Southern
gravamina, Douglas introduced a supplementary fugitive slave bill on
January 28th.[923] Its notable features were the provision for jury
trial in a Federal court, if after extradition a fugitive should
persist in claiming his freedom; and the provisions for the payment of
damages to the claimant, if he should lose through violence a fugitive
slave to whom he had a valid title. The Federal government in turn
might bring suit against the county where the rescue had occurred, and
the county might reimburse itself by suing the offenders to the full
amount of the damages paid.[924] Had this bill passed, it would have
made good the most obvious defects in the much-defamed legislation of
1850; but the time had long since passed, when such concessions would
satisfy the South.

Douglas had to bear many a gibe for his publicly expressed hopes of
peace. Mason denounced his letter to Virginia gentlemen as a "puny,
pusillanimous attempt to hoodwink" the people of Virginia. But Douglas
replied with an earnest reiteration of his expectations. Yet all
depended, he admitted, on the action of Virginia and the border
States. For this reason he deprecated the uncompromising attitude of
the senator from Virginia, when he said, "We want no concessions."
Equally deplorable, he thought, was the spirit evinced by the senator
from New Hampshire who applauded that regrettable remark. "I never
intend to give up the hope of saving this Union so long as there is a
ray left," he cried.[925] Why try to force slavery to go where
experience has demonstrated that climate is adverse and where the
people do not want it? Why prohibit slavery where the government
cannot make it exist? "Why break up the Union upon an abstraction?"
Let the one side give up its demand for protection and the other for
prohibition; and let them unite upon an amendment to the Constitution
which shall deny to Congress the power to legislate upon slavery
everywhere, except in the matter of fugitive slaves and the African
slave-trade. "Do that, and you will have peace; do that, and the Union
will last forever; do that, and you do not extend slavery one inch,
nor circumscribe it one inch; you do not emancipate a slave, and do
not enslave a free-man."[926]

In the course of his eloquent plea for mutual concession, Douglas was
repeatedly interrupted by Wigfall of Texas, whose State was at the
moment preparing to leave the Union. In ironical tones, Wigfall
begged to be informed upon what ground the senator based his hope and
belief that the Union would be preserved. Douglas replied, "I see
indications every day of a disposition to meet this question now and
consider what is necessary to save the Union." And then, anticipating
the sneers of his interrogator, he said sharply, "If the senator will
just follow me, instead of going off to Texas; sit here, and act in
concert with us Union men, we will make him a very efficient agent in
accomplishing that object."[927] But to the obdurate mind of Wigfall
this Union talk was "the merest balderdash." Compromise on the basis
of non-intervention, he pronounced "worse than 'Sewardism,' for it had
hypocrisy and the other was bold and open." There was, unhappily, only
too much truth in his pithy remark that "the apple of discord is
offered to us as the fruit of peace."

It was a sad commentary on the state of the Union that while the six
cotton States were establishing the constitution and government of a
Southern Confederacy, the Federal Senate was providing for the
territorial organization of that great domain whose acquisition had
been the joint labor of all the States. Three Territories were
projected. In one of these, Colorado, a provisional government had
already been set up by the mining population of the Pike's Peak
country. To the Colorado bill Douglas interposed serious objections.
By its provisions, the southern boundary cut off a portion of New
Mexico, which was slave Territory, and added it to Colorado. At the
same time a provision in the bill prevented the territorial
legislature from passing any law to destroy the rights of private
property. Was the new Territory of Colorado to be free or slave?
Another provision debarred the territorial legislature from condemning
private property for public uses. How, then, could Colorado construct
even a public road? Still another provision declared that there should
be no discrimination in the rate of taxation between different kinds
of property. How, then, could Colorado make those necessary exemptions
which were to be found on all statute books?[928]

In his encounter with Senator Green, who had succeeded him as chairman
of the Committee on Territories, Douglas did not appear to good
advantage. It was easy to prove his first objection idle, as there was
no slave property in northern New Mexico. As for the other
objectionable provisions, all--by your leave!--were to be found in the
Washington Territory Act, which had passed through Douglas's committee
without comment.[929]

Douglas proposed a substitute for the Colorado bill, nevertheless,
which, besides rectifying these errors,--for such he still deemed them
to be,--proposed that the people of the Territory should elect their
own officers. He reminded the Senate that the Kansas-Nebraska bill had
been sharply criticised, because while professing to recognize popular
sovereignty, it had withheld this power. At that time, however, the
governor was also an Indian agent and a Federal officer; now, the two
functions were separated. He proposed that, henceforth, the President
and Senate should appoint only such officers as performed Federal
duties.[930] When Senator Wade suggested that Douglas had experienced
a conversion on this point, because he happened to be in opposition to
the incoming administration, which would appoint the new territorial
officers, Douglas referred to his utterances in the last session, as
proof of his disinterestedness in the matter.[931]

Even in his rôle of peace-maker, Douglas could not help remarking that
the bill contained not a word about slavery. "I am rejoiced," he said,
somewhat ironically, "to find that the two sides of the House,
representing the two sides of the 'irrepressible conflict,' find it
impossible when they get into power, to practically carry on the
government without coming to non-intervention, and saying nothing upon
the subject of slavery. Although they may not vote for my proposition,
the fact that they have to avow the principle upon which they have
fought me for years is the only one upon which they can possibly
agree, is conclusive evidence that I have been right in that
principle, and that they have been wrong in fighting me upon it."[932]

In the House the Colorado bill was amended by the excision of the
clause providing for appeals to the United States Supreme Court in all
cases involving title to slaves. Douglas promptly pointed out the
significance of this omission. The decisions of the territorial court
regarding slavery would now be final. The question of whether the
territorial legislature might, or might not, exclude slavery, would
now be decided by territorial judges who would be appointed by a
Republican President.[933] The Republicans now in control of the
Senate were eager to press their advantage. And Douglas had to
acquiesce. After all, the practical importance of the matter was not
great. No one anticipated that slavery ever would exist in these new

The substitute which Douglas offered for the Colorado bill, and
subsequently for the other territorial bills, deserves more than a
passing allusion. Not only was it his last contribution to territorial
legislation, but it suggested a far-reaching change in our colonial
policy. It was the logical conclusion of popular sovereignty
practically applied.[934] Congress was invited to abdicate all but the
most meagre power in organizing new Territories. The task of framing
an organic act for the government of a Territory was to be left to a
convention chosen by adult male citizens who were in actual residence;
but this organic law must be republican in form, and in every way
subordinate to the Constitution and to all laws and treaties affecting
the Indians and the public lands. A Territory so organized was to be
admitted into the Union whenever its population should be equal to the
unit required for representation in the lower house of Congress. The
initiative in taking a preliminary census and calling a territorial
convention, was to be taken by the judge of the Federal court in the
Territory. The tutelage of the Federal government was thus to be
reduced to lowest terms.

Congress was to confine itself to general provisions applicable to all
Territories, leaving the formation of new Territories to the caprice
of the people in actual residence. This was a generous concession to
popular sovereignty; but even so, the paramount authority was still
vested in Congress. Congress, and not the people, was to designate the
bounds of the Territory; Congress was to pass judgment upon the
republicanism of the organic law, and a Federal judge was to set the
machinery of popular sovereignty in motion. Obviously the time had
passed when Congress would make so radical a departure from precedent.
Least of all were the Republican members disposed to weaken the hold
of the Federal government upon Territories where the question of
slavery might again become acute.

While the House was unwilling to vote for a submission of the
Crittenden propositions to a popular vote, it did propose an amendment
denying to Congress the power to interfere with the domestic
institutions of any State. Not being in any sense a concession, but
only an affirmation of a widely accepted principle, this amendment
passed the House easily enough. Yet in his rôle of compromiser,
Douglas made much of this vote. He called Senator Mason's attention to
two great facts--"startling, tremendous facts--that they [the
Republicans] have abandoned their aggressive policy in the Territories
and are willing to give guarantees in the States." These "ought to be
accepted as an evidence of a salutary change in public opinion at the
North."[935] Now if the Republican party would only offer a similar
guarantee, by a constitutional amendment, that they would never revive
their aggressive policy toward slavery in the Territories!

As the February days wore away, Douglas became less hopeful of
peaceable adjustment through compromise. If he had counted upon large
concessions from Seward, he was disappointed. If he had entertained
hopes of the Peace Conference, he had also erred grievously. He became
more and more assured that the forces making against peace were from
the North as well as the South. He told the Senate on February 21st,
that there was "a deliberate plot to break up this Union under
pretense of preserving it."[936] Privately he feared the influence of
some of Mr. Lincoln's advisers, who were hostile to Seward. "What the
Blairs really want," he said hotly to a friend, "is a civil war."[937]
With many another well-wisher he deplored the secret entrance of Mr.
Lincoln into the capital. It seemed to him both weak and undignified,
when the situation called for a conciliatory, but firm, front.[938]

With an absence of personal pique which did him credit, he determined
to take the first opportunity to warn Mr. Lincoln of the dangers of
his position. Douglas knew Lincoln far better than the average
Washington politician. To an acquaintance who lamented the apparent
weakness of the President-elect, Douglas said emphatically, "No, he is
not that, Sir; but he is eminently a man of the atmosphere which
surrounds him. He has not yet got out of Springfield, Sir.... He he
does not know that he is President-elect of the United States, Sir, he
does not see that the shadow he casts is any bigger now than it was
last year. It will not take him long to find it out when he has got
established in the White House."[939]

The ready tact of Mrs. Douglas admirably seconded the initiative of
her husband. She was among the first to call upon Mrs. Lincoln,
thereby setting the example for the ladies of the opposition.[940] A
little incident, to be sure; but in critical hours, the warp and woof
of history is made up of just such little acts of thoughtful courtesy.
Washington society understood and appreciated the gracious spirit of
Adèle Cutts Douglas; and even the New York press commented upon the
incident with satisfaction.

That Seward and his friends were no less alarmed than Douglas, at the
prospect of Lincoln's falling under the influence of the coercionists,
is a matter of record.[941] There were, indeed, two factions
contending for mastery over the incoming administration. So far as an
outsider could do so, Douglas was willing to lend himself to the
schemes of the Seward faction, for in so doing he was obviously
promoting the cause of peace.[942] Three days after Lincoln's arrival
Douglas called upon him; and on the following evening (February 27th)
he sought another private interview.[943] They had long known each
other; and politics aside, Lincoln entertained a high opinion of
Douglas's fairmindedness and common sense.[944] They talked earnestly
about the Peace Conference and the efforts of extremists in Congress
to make it abortive.[945] Each knew the other to be a genuine lover of
the Union. Upon this common basis of sentiment they could converse
without reservations.

Douglas was agitated and distressed.[946] Compromise was now
impossible in Congress. He saw but one hope. With great earnestness he
urged Lincoln to recommend the instant calling of a national
convention to amend the Constitution. Upon the necessity of this step
Douglas and Seward agreed. But Lincoln would not commit himself to
this suggestion, without further consideration.[947] "It is impossible
not to feel," wrote an old acquaintance, after hearing Douglas's
account of this interview, "that he [Douglas] really and truly loves
his country in a way not too common, I fear now, in Washington."[948]

The Senate remained in continuous session from Saturday, March 2d,
until the oath of office was taken by Vice-President Hamlin on Monday
morning. During these eventful hours, the Crittenden amendments were
voted down;[949] and when the venerable senator from Kentucky made a
final effort to secure the adoption of the resolution of the Peace
Congress, which was similar to his own, it too was decisively
defeated.[950] In the closing hours of the session, however, in spite
of the opposition of irreconcilables like Sumner, Wade, and Wilson,
the Senate adopted the amendment which had passed the House, limiting
the powers of Congress in the States.[951]

While Union-loving men were thus wrestling with a forlorn hope,
Douglas was again closeted with Lincoln. It is very probable that
Douglas was invited to call, in order to pass judgment upon certain
passages in the inaugural address, which would be delivered on the
morrow. At all events, Douglas exhibited a familiarity with portions
of the address, which can hardly be accounted for in other ways. He
expressed great satisfaction with Lincoln's statement of the
invalidity of secession. It would do, he said, for all constitutional
Democrats to "brace themselves against."[952] He frankly announced
that he would stand by Mr. Lincoln in a temperate, resolute Union

On the forenoon of Inauguration Day, Douglas told a friend that he
meant to put himself as prominently forward in the ceremonies as he
properly could, and to leave no doubt in any one's mind of his
determination to stand by the administration in the performance of its
first great duty to maintain the Union. "I watched him carefully,"
records this same acquaintance. "He made his way not without
difficulty--for there was literally no sort of order in the
arrangements--to the front of the throng directly beside Mr. Lincoln,
when he prepared to read his address. A miserable little rickety table
had been provided for the President, on which he could hardly find
room for his hat, and Senator Douglas, reaching forward, took it with
a smile and held it during the delivery of the address. It was a
trifling act, but a symbolical one, and not to be forgotten, and it
attracted much attention all around me."[954]

At least one passage in the inaugural address was framed upon
suggestions made by Douglas. Contrary to his original intention,
Lincoln went out of his way to say, "I cannot be ignorant of the fact
that many worthy and patriotic citizens are desirous of having the
National Constitution amended. While I make no recommendation of
amendments, I fully recognize the rightful authority of the people
over the whole subject, to be exercised in either of the modes
prescribed in the instrument itself; and I should, under existing
circumstances, favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity being
afforded the people to act upon it. I will venture to add that to me
the convention mode seems preferable, in that it allows amendments to
originate with the people themselves, instead of only permitting them
to take or reject propositions originated by others, not especially
chosen for the purpose, and which might not be precisely such as they
would wish to either accept or refuse. I understand a proposed
amendment to the Constitution--which amendment, however, I have not
seen--has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government
shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States,
including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of
what I have said, I depart from my purpose, not to speak of particular
amendments, so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be
implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made
express and irrevocable."[955]

In the original draft of his address, written before he came to
Washington, Lincoln had dismissed with scant consideration the notion
of a constitutional amendment: "I am not much impressed with the
belief that the present Constitution can be improved. I am rather for
the old ship, and the chart of the old pilots."[956] Sometime after
his interview with Douglas, Lincoln struck out these words and
inserted the paragraph already quoted, rejecting at the same time a
suggestion from Seward.[957]

The curious and ubiquitous correspondents of the New York press,
always on the alert for straws to learn which way the wind was
blowing, made much of Douglas's conspicuous gallantry toward Mrs.
Lincoln. He accompanied her to the inaugural ball and unhesitatingly
defended his friendliness with the President's household, on the
ground that Mr. Lincoln "meant to do what was right." To one press
agent, eager to have his opinion of the inaugural, Douglas said, "I
defend the inaugural if it is as I understand it, namely, an emanation
from the brain and heart of a patriot, and as I mean, if I know
myself, to act the part of a patriot, I endorse it."[958]

On March 6th, while Republican senators maintained an uncertain and
discreet silence respecting the inaugural address, Douglas rose to
speak in its defense. Senator Clingman had interpreted the President's
policy in terms of his own emotions: there was no doubt about it, the
inaugural portended war. "In no wise," responded Douglas with energy:
"It is a peace-offering rather than a war message." In all his long
congressional career there is nothing that redounds more to Douglas's
everlasting credit than his willingness to defend the policy of his
successful rival, while men of Lincoln's own party were doubting what
manner of man the new President was and what his policy might mean.
Nothing could have been more adroit than Douglas's plea for the
inaugural address. He did not throw himself into the arms of the
administration and betray his intimate acquaintance with the plans of
the new President. He spoke as the leader of the opposition,
critically and judiciously. He had read the inaugural with care; he
had subjected it to a critical analysis; and he was of the opinion
that it was characterized by ability and directness on certain points,
but by lack of explicitness on others. He cited passages that he
deemed equivocal and objectionable. Nevertheless he rejoiced to read
one clause which was evidently the key to the entire document:

"The course here indicated will be followed unless current events and
experience shall show a modification or change to be proper, and in
every case and exigency my best discretion will be exercised according
to circumstances actually existing, and with a view and a hope of a
peaceful solution of the national troubles, and the restoration of
fraternal sympathies and affections."[959]

By the terms of his message, too, the President was pledged to favor
such amendments as might originate with the people for the settlement
of the slavery question,--even if the settlement should be repugnant
to the principles of his party. Mr. Lincoln should receive the thanks
of all Union-loving men for having "sunk the partisan in the patriot."
The voice of Douglas never rang truer than when he paid this tribute
to his rival's honesty and candor.

"I do not wish it to be inferred," he said in conclusion,... "that I
have any political sympathy with his administration, or that I expect
any contingency can happen in which I may be identified with it. I
expect to oppose his administration with all my energy on those great
principles which have separated parties in former times; but on this
one question--that of preserving the Union by a peaceful solution of
our present difficulties; that of preventing any future difficulties
by such an amendment of the Constitution as will settle the question
by an express provision--if I understand his true intent and meaning,
I am with him."[960]

But neither President Lincoln nor Douglas had committed himself on the
concrete question upon which hung peace or war--what should be done
about Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens. The point was driven home with
relentless vigor by Wigfall, who still lingered in the Senate after
the secession of his State. "Would the Senator who is speaking for the
administration say explicitly, whether he would advise the withdrawal
of the troops from the forts?" The reply of Douglas was admirable: "As
I am not in their counsels nor their confidence, I shall not tender
them my advice until they ask it.... I do not choose either, to
proclaim what my policy would be, in view of the fact that the Senator
does not regard himself as the guardian of the honor and interests of
my country, but is looking to the interests of another, which he
thinks is in hostility to this country. It would hardly be good policy
or wisdom for me to reveal what I think ought to be our policy, to one
who may so soon be in the counsels of the enemy, and the command of
its armies."[961]

Douglas did admit, however, that since the garrison of Fort Sumter had
provisions for only thirty days, he presumed no attempt would be made
to reinforce it. Under existing circumstances the President had no
power to collect the revenues of the government and no military force
sufficient to reinforce Sumter. Congress was not in session to supply
either the necessary coercive powers or troops. He therefore drew the
conclusion that not only the President himself was pacific in his
policy, but the Republican party as well, despite the views of
individual members. "But," urged Mason of Virginia, "I ask the
Senator, then, what is to be done with the garrison if they are in a
starving condition?" "If the Senator had voted right in the last
presidential election," replied Douglas good-naturedly, "I should have
been in a condition, perhaps, to tell him authoritatively what ought
to be done."

From this moment on, Douglas enjoyed the confidence of President
Lincoln to an extraordinary degree. No one knew better than Lincoln
the importance of securing the coöperation of so influential a
personage. True, by the withdrawal of Southern senators, the
Democratic opposition had been greatly reduced; but Douglas was still
a power in this Democratic remnant. Besides, the man who could command
the suffrages of a million voters was not a force lightly to be
reckoned with. After this speech of the 6th, Lincoln again sent for
Douglas, to express his entire agreement with its views and with its
spirit.[962] He gave Douglas the impression that he desired to gain
time for passions to cool by removing the causes of irritation. He
felt confident that there would soon be a general demand for a
national convention where all existing differences could be radically
treated. "I am just as ready," Douglas reported him to have said, "to
reinforce the garrisons at Sumter and Pickens or to withdraw them, as
I am to see an amendment adopted protecting slavery in the Territories
or prohibiting slavery in the Territories. What I want is to get done
what the people desire to have done, and the question for me is how to
find that out exactly."[963] On this point they were in entire accord.

The patriotic conduct of Douglas earned for him the warm commendation
of Northern newspapers, many of which had hitherto been incapable of
ascribing honorable motives to him.[964] No one who met him at the
President's levees would have suspected that he had been one of his
host's most relentless opponents. A correspondent of the New York
_Times_ described him as he appeared at one of these functions. "Here
one minute, there the next--now congratulating the President, then
complimenting Mrs. Lincoln, bowing and scraping, and shaking hands,
and smiling, laughing, yarning and saluting the crowd of people whom
he knew." More soberly, this same observer added, "He has already done
a great deal of good to the administration."[965] It is impossible to
find the soured and discomfited rival in this picture.

The country was anxiously awaiting the development of the policy of
the new Executive, for to eight out of every ten men, Lincoln was
still an unknown man. Rumors were abroad that both Sumter and Pickens
would be surrendered.[966] Seward was known to be conciliatory on this
point; and the man on the street never once doubted that Seward would
be the master-mind in the cabinet. Those better informed knew--and
Douglas was among them--that Seward's influence was menaced by an
aggressive faction in the cabinet.[967] Behind these official
advisers, giving them active support, were those Republican senators
who from the first had doubted the efficacy of compromise.

Believing the country should have assurances that President Lincoln
did not meditate war,--did not, in short, propose to yield to the
aggressive wing of his party,--Douglas sought to force a show of
hands.[968] On March 13th, he offered a resolution which was designed
to draw the fire of Republican senators. The Secretary of War was
requested to furnish information about the Southern forts now in
possession of the Federal government; to state whether reinforcements
were needed to retain them; whether under existing laws the government
had the power and means to reinforce them, and whether it was wise to
retain military possession of such forts and to recapture those that
had been lost, except for the purpose of subjugating and occupying the
States which had seceded; and finally, if such were the motives, to
supply estimates of the military force required to reduce the seceding
States and to protect the national capital.[969] The wording of the
resolution was purposely involved. Douglas hoped that it would
precipitate a discussion which would disclose the covert wish of the
aggressives, and force an authoritative announcement of President
Lincoln's policy. Doubtless there was a political motive behind all
this. Douglas was not averse to putting his bitter and implacable
enemies in their true light, as foes of compromise even to the extent
of disrupting the Union.[970]

Not receiving any response, Douglas took the floor in defense of his
resolution. He believed that the country should have the information
which his resolution was designed to elicit. The people were
apprehensive of civil war. He had put his construction upon the
President's inaugural; but "the Republican side of the Chamber remains
mute and silent, neither assenting nor dissenting." The answer which
he believed the resolution would call forth, would demonstrate two
points of prime importance: "First, that the President does not
meditate war; and, secondly, that he has no means for prosecuting a
warfare upon the seceding States, even if he desired."

With his wonted dialectic skill Douglas sought to establish his case.
The existing laws made no provision for collecting the revenue on
shipboard. It was admitted on all sides that collection at the port of
entry in South Carolina was impossible. The President had no legal
right to blockade the port of Charleston. He could not employ the army
to enforce the laws in the seceded States, for the military could be
used only to aid a civil process; and where was the marshal in South
Carolina to execute a writ? The President must have known that he
lacked these powers. He must have referred to the future action of
Congress, then, when he said that he should execute the laws in all
the States, unless the "requisite means were withheld." But Congress
had not passed laws empowering the Executive to collect revenue or to
gain possession of the forts. What, then, was the inference? Clearly
this, that the Republican senators did not desire to confer these

If this inference is not correct, if this interpretation of the
inaugural address is faulty, urged Douglas, why preserve this
impenetrable silence? Why not let the people know what the policy of
the administration is? They have a right to know. "The President of
the United States holds the destiny of this country in his hands. I
believe he means peace, and war will be averted, unless he is
overruled by the disunion portion of his party. We all know the
irrepressible conflict is going on in their camp.... Then, throw aside
this petty squabble about how you are to get along with your pledges
before election; meet the issues as they are presented; do what duty,
honor, and patriotism require, and appeal to the people to sustain
you. Peace is the only policy that can save the country or save your

On the Republican side of the chamber, this appeal was bitterly
resented. It met with no adequate response, because there was none to
give; but Wilson roundly denounced it as a wicked, mischief-making
utterance.[972] Unhappily, Douglas allowed himself to be drawn into a
personal altercation with Fessenden, in which he lost his temper and
marred the effect of his patriotic appeal. There was probably some
truth in Douglas's charge that both senators intended to be personally
irritating.[973] Under the circumstances, it was easier to indulge in
personal disparagement of Douglas, than to meet his embarrassing

How far Douglas still believed in the possibility of saving the Union
through compromise, it is impossible to say. Publicly he continued to
talk in an optimistic strain.[974] On March 25th, he expressed his
satisfaction in the Senate that only one danger-point remained; Fort
Sumter, he understood, was to be evacuated.[975] But among his friends
no one looked into the future with more anxiety than he. Intimations
from the South that citizens of the United States would probably be
excluded from the courts of the Confederacy, wrung from him the
admission that such action would be equivalent to war.[976] He noted
anxiously the evident purpose of the Confederated States to coerce
Kentucky and Virginia into secession.[977] Indeed, it is probable that
before the Senate adjourned, his ultimate hope was to rally the Union
men in the border States.[978]

When President Lincoln at last determined to send supplies to Fort
Sumter, the issue of peace or war rested with Jefferson Davis and his
cabinet at Montgomery. Early on the morning of April 12th, a shell,
fired from a battery in Charleston harbor, burst directly over Fort
Sumter, proclaiming to anxious ears the close of an era.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 892: Rhodes, History of the United States, III, pp. 116 ff.]

[Footnote 893: Rhodes, History of the United States, III, pp.

[Footnote 894: Chicago _Times and Herald_, December 7, 1860.]

[Footnote 895: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 896: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 12.]

[Footnote 897: _Ibid._, p. 29.]

[Footnote 898: _Ibid._, p. 3.]

[Footnote 899: _Ibid._, pp. 11-12.]

[Footnote 900: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 28.]

[Footnote 901: _Ibid._, p. 57.]

[Footnote 902: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 52.]

[Footnote 903: Rhodes, History of the United States, III, pp.

[Footnote 904: Report of the Committee of Thirteen, pp. 11-12.]

[Footnote 905: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 158.]

[Footnote 906: December 21st.]

[Footnote 907: MS. Letter, Douglas to C.H. Lanphier, December 25,

[Footnote 908: Report of the Committee of Thirteen, p. 16.]

[Footnote 909: _Ibid._, p. 18.]

[Footnote 910: McPherson, Political History of the Rebellion, p. 38.]

[Footnote 911: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 35.]

[Footnote 912: _Ibid._, p. 38.]

[Footnote 913: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 39. It is not
unlikely that Douglas may have been reassured on this point by some
communication from Lincoln himself. The Diary of a Public Man (_North
American Review_, Vol. 129,) p. 130, gives the impression that they
had been in correspondence. Personal relations between them had been
cordial even in 1859, just after the debates; See Publication No. 11,
of the Illinois Historical Library, p. 191.]

[Footnote 914: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 39.]

[Footnote 915: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., App., p. 41.]

[Footnote 916: _Ibid._, p. 42.]

[Footnote 917: January 10th, 11th, and 19th.]

[Footnote 918: The resolution was carried, 25 to 23, six Southern
Senators refusing to vote. _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 409.]

[Footnote 919: McPherson, Political History of the Rebellion, p. 39.]

[Footnote 920: Diary of a Public Man, pp. 133-134. Douglas was on
terms of intimacy with the writer, and must have shared these
communications. Besides, Douglas had independent sources of

[Footnote 921: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 445-446.]

[Footnote 922: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 508.]

[Footnote 923: _Ibid._, p. 586.]

[Footnote 924: Senate Bill, No. 549, 36 Cong., 2 Sess.]

[Footnote 925: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 661.]

[Footnote 926: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 927: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., pp. 669.]

[Footnote 928: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 764.]

[Footnote 929: _Ibid._]

[Footnote 930: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 764.]

[Footnote 931: _Ibid._, p. 765.]

[Footnote 932: _Ibid._, p. 766.]

[Footnote 933: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1205.]

[Footnote 934: It is printed in full in _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p.

[Footnote 935: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1391.]

[Footnote 936: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1081.]

[Footnote 937: Diary of a Public Man, p. 261.]

[Footnote 938: _Ibid._, p. 260.]

[Footnote 939: _Ibid._, p. 261.]

[Footnote 940: Correspondent of the New York _Times_, February 25,

[Footnote 941: Diary of a Public Man, pp. 260-261.]

[Footnote 942: _Ibid._, p. 264.]

[Footnote 943: _Ibid._, pp. 264, 268; the interview of February 26th
was commented upon by the Philadelphia _Press_, February 28.]

[Footnote 944: Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 73, note.]

[Footnote 945: Diary of a Public Man, p. 268.]

[Footnote 946: Diary of a Public Man, p. 268.]

[Footnote 947: _Ibid._, p. 268.]

[Footnote 948: _Ibid._, p. 268.]

[Footnote 949: _Globe_, 36 Cong., 2 Sess., p. 1405.]

[Footnote 950: _Ibid._, p. 1405.]

[Footnote 951: _Ibid._, p. 1403.]

[Footnote 952: Diary of a Public Man, p. 380.]

[Footnote 953: _Ibid._, p. 379.]

[Footnote 954: _Ibid._, p. 383.]

[Footnote 955: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, III, pp. 340-341. These
authors note that Lincoln rewrote this paragraph, but take it for
granted that he did so upon his own motion, after rejecting Seward's

[Footnote 956: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, III, p. 340, note.]

[Footnote 957: Seward's letter was written on the evening of February
24th. Douglas called upon the President February 26th. See Nicolay and
Hay, Lincoln, III, p. 319; Diary of a Public Man, pp. 264, 268.]

[Footnote 958: New York _Times_, March 6, 1861.]

[Footnote 959: _Globe_, 36 Cong., Special Sess., p. 1437.]

[Footnote 960: _Globe_, 36 Cong., Special Sess., p. 1438]

[Footnote 961: _Ibid._, p. 1442.]

[Footnote 962: Diary of a Public Man, p. 493.]

[Footnote 963: Diary of a Public Man, p. 493.]

[Footnote 964: New York _Times_, March 8, 1861; also the Philadelphia
_Press_, March 11, 1861.]

[Footnote 965: New York _Times_, March 10, 1861.]

[Footnote 966: Rhodes History of the United States, III, p. 332.]

[Footnote 967: Diary of a Public Man, p. 493.]

[Footnote 968: _Ibid._, pp. 495-496.]

[Footnote 969: _Globe_, 36 Cong., Special Sess., p. 1452.]

[Footnote 970: Diary of a Public Man, pp. 495-496.]

[Footnote 971: _Globe_, 36 Cong., Special Sess., p 1461.]

[Footnote 972: _Ibid._, p. 1461.]

[Footnote 973: _Globe_, 36 Cong., Special Sess., p. 1465.]

[Footnote 974: _Ibid._, pp. 1460, 1501, 1504.]

[Footnote 975: _Ibid._, p. 1501.]

[Footnote 976: Diary of a Public Man, p. 494.]

[Footnote 977: _Ibid._, p. 494.]

[Footnote 978: _Globe_, 36 Cong., Special Sess., pp. 1505, 1511.]



The news of the capitulation of Fort Sumter reached Washington on
Sunday morning, April 14th. At a momentous cabinet meeting, President
Lincoln read the draft of a proclamation calling into service
seventy-five thousand men, to suppress combinations obstructing the
execution of the laws in the Southern States. The cabinet was now a
unit. Now that the crisis had come, the administration had a policy.
Would it approve itself to the anxious people of the North? Could it
count upon the support of those who had counselled peace, peace at any

Those who knew Senator Douglas well could not doubt his loyalty to the
Union in this crisis; yet his friends knew that Union-loving men in
the Democratic ranks would respond to the President's proclamation
with a thousandfold greater enthusiasm, could they know that their
leader stood by the administration. Moved by these considerations,
Hon. George Ashmun of Massachusetts ventured to call upon Douglas on
this Sunday evening, and to suggest the propriety of some public
statement to strengthen the President's hands. Would he not call upon
the President at once and give him the assurance of his support?
Douglas demurred: he was not sure that Mr. Lincoln wanted his advice
and aid. Mr. Ashmun assured him that the President would welcome any
advances, and he spoke advisedly as a friend to both men. The peril of
the country was grave; surely this was not a time when men should let
personal and partisan considerations stand between them and service to
their country. Mrs. Douglas added her entreaties, and Douglas finally
yielded. Though the hour was late, the two men set off for the White
House, and found there the hearty welcome which Ashmun had

Of all the occurrences of this memorable day, this interview between
Lincoln and Douglas strikes the imagination with most poignant
suggestiveness. Had Douglas been a less generous opponent, he might
have reminded the President that matters had come to just that pass
which he had foreseen in 1858. Nothing of the sort passed Douglas's
lips. The meeting of the rivals was most cordial and hearty. They held
converse as men must when hearts are oppressed with a common burden.
The President took up and read aloud the proclamation summoning the
nation to arms. When he had done, Douglas said with deep earnestness,
"Mr. President, I cordially concur in every word of that document,
except that instead of the call for seventy-five thousand men, I would
make it two hundred thousand. You do not know the dishonest purposes
of those men as well as I do."[980] Why has not some artist seized
upon the dramatic moment when they rose and passed to the end of the
room to examine a map which hung there? Douglas, with animated face
and impetuous gesture, pointing out the strategic places in the coming
contest; Lincoln, with the suggestion of brooding melancholy upon his
careworn face, listening in rapt attention to the quick, penetrating
observations of his life-long rival. But what no artist could put upon
canvas was the dramatic absence of resentment and defeated ambition in
the one, and the patient teachableness and self-mastery of the other.
As they parted, a quick hearty grasp of hands symbolized this
remarkable consecration to a common task.

As they left the executive mansion, Ashmun urged his companion to send
an account of this interview to the press, that it might accompany the
President's message on the morrow. Douglas then penned the following
dispatch: "Senator Douglas called upon the President, and had an
interesting conversation on the present condition of the country. The
substance of it was, on the part of Mr. Douglas, that while he was
unalterably opposed to the administration in all its political issues,
he was prepared to fully sustain the President in the exercise of all
his constitutional functions, to preserve the Union, maintain the
government, and defend the Federal capital. A firm policy and prompt
action was necessary. The capital was in danger, and must be defended
at all hazards, and at any expense of men and money. He spoke of the
present and future without any reference to the past."[981] When the
people of the North read the proclamation in the newspapers, on the
following morning, a million men were cheered and sustained in their
loyalty to the Union by the intelligence that their great leader had
subordinated all lesser ends of party to the paramount duty of
maintaining the Constitution of the fathers. To his friends in
Washington, Douglas said unhesitatingly, "We must fight for our
country and forget all differences. There can be but two parties--the
party of patriots and the party of traitors. We belong to the
first."[982] And to friends in Missouri where disunion sentiment was
rife, he telegraphed, "I deprecate war, but if it must come I am with
my country, and for my country, under all circumstances and in every
contingency. Individual policy must be subordinated to the public

From this day on, Douglas was in frequent consultation with the
President. The sorely tried and distressed Lincoln was unutterably
grateful for the firm grip which this first of "War Democrats" kept
upon the progress of public opinion in the irresolute border States.
It was during one of these interviews, after the attack upon the Sixth
Massachusetts Regiment in the streets of Baltimore, that Douglas urged
upon the President the possibility of bringing troops by water to
Annapolis, thence to Washington, thus avoiding further conflict in the
disaffected districts of Maryland.[984] Eventually the Eighth
Massachusetts and the Seventh New York reached Washington by this
route, to the immense relief of the President and his cabinet.

Before this succor came to the alarmed capital, Douglas had left the
city for the West. He had received intimations that Egypt in his own
State showed marked symptoms of disaffection. The old ties of blood
and kinship of the people of southern Illinois with their neighbors in
the border States were proving stronger than Northern affiliations.
Douglas wielded an influence in these southern, Democratic counties,
such as no other man possessed. Could he not best serve the
administration by bearding disunionism in its den? Believing that
Cairo, at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio, was destined
to be a strategic point of immense importance in the coming struggle,
and that the fate of the whole valley depended upon the unwavering
loyalty of Illinois, Douglas laid the matter before Lincoln. He would
go or stay in Washington, wherever Lincoln thought he could do the
most good. Probably neither then realized the tremendous nature of the
struggle upon which the country had entered; yet both knew that the
Northwest would be the makeweight in the balance for the Union; and
that every nerve must be strained to hold the border States of
Kentucky and Missouri. Who could rouse the latent Unionism of the
Northwest and of the border States like Douglas? Lincoln advised him
to go. There was a quick hand-grasp, a hurried farewell, and they
parted never to meet again.[985]

Rumor gave strange shapes to this "mission" which carried Douglas in
such haste to the Northwest. Most persistent of all is the tradition
that he was authorized to raise a huge army in the States of the upper
Mississippi Valley, and to undertake that vast flanking movement which
subsequently fell to Grant and Sherman to execute. Such a project
would have been thoroughly consonant with Douglas's conviction of the
inevitable unity and importance of the great valley; but evidence is
wanting to corroborate this legend.[986] Its frequent repetition,
then and now, must rather be taken as a popular recognition of the
complete accord between the President and the greatest of War
Democrats. Colonel Forney, who stood very near to Douglas, afterward
stated "by authority," that President Lincoln would eventually have
called Douglas into the administration or have placed him in one of
the highest military commands.[987] Such importance may be given to
this testimony as belongs to statements which have passed unconfirmed
and unchallenged for half a century.

On his way to Illinois, Douglas missed a train and was detained half a
day in the little town of Bellaire, Ohio, a few miles below Wheeling
in Virginia.[988] It was a happy accident, for just across the river
the people of northwestern Virginia were meditating resistance to the
secession movement, which under the guidance of Governor Letcher
threatened to sever them from the Union-loving population of Ohio and
Pennsylvania. It was precisely in this region, nearly a hundred years
before, that popular sovereignty had almost succeeded in forming a
fourteenth State of the Confederacy. There had always been a disparity
between the people of these transmontane counties and the tide-water
region. The intelligence that Douglas was in Bellaire speedily brought
a throng about the hotel in which he was resting. There were clamors
for a speech. In the afternoon he yielded to their importunities. By
this time the countryside was aroused. People came across the river
from Virginia and many came down by train from Wheeling,[989] Men who
were torn by a conflict of sentiments, not knowing where their
paramount allegiance lay, hung upon his words.

Douglas spoke soberly and thoughtfully, not as a Democrat, not as a
Northern man, but simply and directly as a lover of the Union. "If we
recognize the right of secession in one case, we give our assent to it
in all cases; and if the few States upon the Gulf are now to separate
themselves from us, and erect a barrier across the mouth of that great
river of which the Ohio is a tributary, how long will it be before New
York may come to the conclusion that she may set up for herself, and
levy taxes upon every dollar's worth of goods imported and consumed in
the Northwest, and taxes upon every bushel of wheat, and every pound
of pork, or beef, or other productions that may be sent from the
Northwest to the Atlantic in search of a market?" Secession meant
endless division and sub-division, the formation of petty
confederacies, appeals to the sword and the bayonet instead of to the

"Unite as a band of brothers," he pleaded, "and rescue your government
and its capital and your country from the enemy who have been the
authors of your calamity." His eye rested upon the great river. "Ah!"
he exclaimed, a great wave of emotion checking his utterance, "This
great valley must never be divided. The Almighty has so arranged the
mountain and the plain, and the water-courses as to show that this
valley in all time shall remain one and indissoluble. Let no man
attempt to sunder what Divine Providence has rendered indivisible."[990]

As he concluded, anxious questions were put to him, regarding the
rumored retirement of General Scott from the army. "I saw him only
Saturday," replied Douglas. "He was at his desk, pen in hand, writing
his orders for the defense and safety of the American Capital." And as
he repeated the words of General Scott declining the command of the
forces of Virginia--"'I have served my country under the flag of the
Union for more than fifty years, and as long as God permits me to
live, I will defend that flag with my sword; even if my own State
assails it,'"--the crowds around him broke into tumultuous cheers.
Within thirty days the Unionists of western Virginia had rallied,
organized, and begun that hardy campaign which brought West Virginia
into the Union. On the very day that Douglas was making his fervent
plea for the Union, Robert E. Lee cast in his lot with the South.

At Columbus, Douglas was again forced to break his journey; and again
he was summoned to address the crowd that gathered below his window.
It was already dark; the people had collected without concert; there
were no such trappings, as had characterized public demonstrations in
the late campaign. Douglas appeared half-dressed at his bedroom
window, a dim object to all save to those who stood directly below
him. Out of the darkness came his solemn, sonorous tones, bringing
relief and assurance to all who listened, for in the throng were men
of all parties, men who had followed him through all changes of
political weather, and men who had been his persistent foes. There was
little cheering. As Douglas pledged anew his hearty support to
President Lincoln, "it was rather a deep 'Amen' that went up from the
crowd," wrote one who had distrusted hitherto the mighty power of
this great popular leader.[991]

On the 25th of April, Douglas reached Springfield, where he purposed
to make his great plea for the Union. He spoke at the Capitol to
members of the legislature and to packed galleries. Friend and foe
alike bear witness to the extraordinary effect wrought by his words.
"I do not think that it is possible for a human being to produce a
more prodigious effect with spoken words," wrote one who had formerly
detested him.[992] "Never in all my experience in public life, before
or since," testified the then Speaker of the House, now high in the
councils of the nation, "have I been so impressed by a speaker."[993]
Douglas himself was thrilled with his message. As he approached the
climax, the veins of his neck and forehead were swollen with passion,
and the perspiration ran down his face in streams. At times his clear
and resonant voice reverberated through the chamber, until it seemed
to shake the building.[994] While he was in the midst of a passionate
invective, a man rushed into the hall bearing an American flag. The
trumpet tones of the speaker and the sight of the Stars and Stripes
roused the audience to the wildest pitch of excitement.[995] Men and
women became hysterical with the divine madness of patriotism. "When
hostile armies," he exclaimed with amazing force, "When hostile armies
are marching under new and odious banners against the government of
our country, the shortest way to peace is the most stupendous and
unanimous preparation for war. We in the great valley of the
Mississippi have peculiar interests and inducements in the struggle
... I ask every citizen in the great basin between the Rocky Mountains
and the Alleghanies ... to tell me whether he is ever willing to
sanction a line of policy that may isolate us from the markets of the
world, and make us dependent provinces upon the powers that thus
choose to isolate us?... Hence, if a war does come, it is a war of
self-defense on our part. It is a war in defense of the Government
which we have inherited as a priceless legacy from our patriotic
fathers, in defense of those great rights of freedom of trade,
commerce, transit and intercourse from the center to the circumference
of our great continent."[996]

The voice of the strong man, so little given to weak sentiment, broke,
as he said, "I have struggled almost against hope to avert the
calamities of war and to effect a reunion and reconciliation with our
brethren in the South. I yet hope it may be done, but I am not able to
point out how it may be. Nothing short of Providence can reveal to us
the issues of this great struggle. Bloody--calamitous--I fear it will
be. May we so conduct it, if a collision must come, that we will stand
justified in the eyes of Him who knows our hearts, and who will
justify our every act. We must not yield to resentments, nor to the
spirit of vengeance, much less to the desire for conquest or ambition.
I see no path of ambition open in a bloody struggle for triumphs over
my countrymen. There is no path of ambition open for me in a divided
country.... My friends, I can say no more. To discuss these topics is
the most painful duty of my life. It is with a sad heart--with a grief
I have never before experienced--that I have to contemplate this
fearful struggle; but I believe in my conscience that it is a duty we
owe to ourselves and to our children, and to our God, to protect this
Government and that flag from every assailant, be he who he may."

Thereafter treason had no abiding place within the limits of the State
of Illinois. And no one, it may be safely affirmed, could have so
steeled the hearts of men in Southern Illinois for the death grapple.
In a manly passage in his speech, Douglas said, "I believe I may with
confidence appeal to the people of every section of the country to
bear witness that I have been as thoroughly national as any man that
has lived in my day. And I believe if I should make an appeal to the
people of Illinois, or of the Northern States, to their impartial
verdict; they would say that whatever errors I have committed have
been in leaning too far to the Southern section of the Union against
my own.... I have never pandered to the prejudice and passion of my
section against the minority section of the Union." It was precisely
this truth which gave him a hearing through the length and breadth of
Illinois and the Northwest during this crisis.

The return of Douglas to Chicago was the signal for a remarkable
demonstration of regard. He had experienced many strange home-comings.
His Democratic following, not always discriminating, had ever accorded
him noisy homage. His political opponents had alternately execrated
him and given him grudging praise. But never before had men of all
parties, burying their differences, united to do him honor. On the
evening of his arrival, he was escorted to the Wigwam, where hardly a
year ago Lincoln had been nominated for the presidency. Before him
were men who had participated jubilantly in the Republican campaign,
with many a bitter gibe at the champion of "squatter sovereignty."
Douglas could not conceal his gratification at this proof that,
however men had differed from him on political questions, they had
believed in his loyalty. And it was of loyalty, not of himself, that
he spoke. He did not spare Southern feelings before this Chicago
audience. He told his hearers unequivocally that the slavery question,
the election of Lincoln, and the territorial question, were so many
pretexts for dissolving the Union. "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." But this was no time to discuss pretexts and 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_."[997] It was the first
time he had used the ugly epithet.

Hardly had he summoned the people of Illinois to do battle, when again
he touched that pathetic note that recurred again and again in his
appeal at Springfield. Was it the memory of the mother of his boys
that moved him to say, "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." Before him were some who felt
toward the people of the South as Greek toward barbarian. But Douglas
foresaw that the horrors of war must invade and desolate the homes of
those whom he still held dear. There is no more lovable and admirable
side of his personality than this tenderness for the helpless and
innocent. Had he but lived to temper justice with mercy, what a power
for good might he not have been in the days of reconstruction!

The summons had gone forth. Already doubts and misgivings had given
way, and the North was now practically unanimous in its determination
to stifle rebellion. There was a common belief that secession was the
work of a minority, skillfully led by designing politicians, and that
the loyal majority would rally with the North to defend the flag.
Young men who responded jubilantly to the call to arms did not doubt,
that the struggle would be brief. Douglas shared the common belief in
the conspiracy theory of secession, but he indulged no illusion as to
the nature of the war, if war should come. Months before the firing
upon Fort Sumter, in a moment of depression, he had prophesied that if
the cotton States should succeed in drawing the border States into
their schemes of secession, the most fearful civil war the world had
ever seen would follow, lasting for years. "Virginia," said he,
pointing toward Arlington, "over yonder across the Potomac, will
become a charnel-house.... Washington will become a city of
hospitals, the churches will be used for the sick and wounded. This
house 'Minnesota Block,' will be devoted to that purpose before the
end of the war."[998] He, at least, did not mistake the chivalry of
the South. Not for an instant did he doubt the capacity of the
Southern people to suffer and endure, as well as to do battle. And he
knew--Ah! how well--the self-sacrifice and devotion of Southern women.

The days following the return of Douglas to Chicago were filled also
with worries and anxieties of a private nature. The financial panic of
1857 had been accompanied by a depression of land values, which caused
Douglas grave concern for his holdings in Chicago, and no little
immediate distress. Unable and unwilling to sacrifice his investments,
he had mortgaged nearly all of his property in Cook County, including
the valuable "Grove Property" in South Chicago. Though he was always
lax in pecuniary matters, and, with his buoyant generous nature,
little disposed to take anxious thought for the morrow, these heavy
financial obligations began now to press upon him with grievous
weight. The prolonged strain of the previous twelve months had racked
even his constitution. He had made heavy drafts on his bodily health,
with all too little regard for the inevitable compensation which
Nature demands. As in all other things, he had been prodigal with
Nature's choicest gift.

Not long after his public address Douglas fell ill and developed
symptoms that gave his physicians the gravest concern. Weeks of
illness followed. The disease, baffling medical skill, ran its
course. Yet never in his lucid moments did Douglas forget the ills of
his country; and even when delirium clouded his mind, he was still
battling for the Union. "Telegraph to the President and let the column
move on," he cried, wrestling with his wasting fever. In his last
hours his mind cleared. Early on the morning of June 3d, he seemed to
rally, but only momentarily. It was evident to those about him that
the great summons had come. Tenderly his devoted wife leaned over him
to ask if he had any message for his boys, "Robbie" and "Stevie." With
great effort, but clearly and emphatically, he replied, "Tell them to
obey the laws and support the Constitution of the United States." Not
long after, he grappled with the great Foe, and the soul of a great
patriot passed on.

    "I was ever a fighter, so--one fight more,
      The best and the last!
    I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,
      And bade me creep past.
    No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers
      The heroes of old,
    Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears
      Of pain, darkness and cold."

With almost royal pomp, the earthly remains of Stephen Arnold Douglas
were buried beside the inland sea that washes the shores of the home
of his adoption. It is a fitting resting place. The tempestuous waters
of the great lake reflect his own stormy career. Yet they have their
milder moods. There are hours when sunlight falls aslant the subdued
surface and irradiates the depths.

       *       *       *       *       *


[Footnote 979: Holland, Life of Lincoln, p. 301.]

[Footnote 980: _Ibid._, p. 302.]

[Footnote 981: Arnold, Lincoln, pp. 200-201. The date of this dispatch
should be April 14, and not April 18.]

[Footnote 982: Forney, Anecdotes, I, p. 224.]

[Footnote 983: New York _Tribune_, April 18.]

[Footnote 984: Forney, Anecdotes, I, p. 225.]

[Footnote 985: Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, p. 249 note; Forney,
Anecdotes, I, p. 225.]

[Footnote 986: Many friends of Douglas have assured me of their
unshaken belief in this story.]

[Footnote 987: Forney, Anecdotes, I, pp. 121, 226.]

[Footnote 988: Philadelphia _Press_, April 26, 1861.]

[Footnote 989: Philadelphia _Press_, April 26, 1861.]

[Footnote 990: The Philadelphia _Press_, April 26, 1861, reprinted the
speech from the Wheeling _Intelligencer_ of April 21, 1861.]

[Footnote 991: J.D. Cox, Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, I,
pp. 5-6.]

[Footnote 992: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, pp.

[Footnote 993: Senator Cullom of Illinois, quoted in Arnold, Lincoln,
p. 201, note.]

[Footnote 994: Mr. Horace White in Herndon-Weik, Lincoln, II, pp.

[Footnote 995: Arnold, Lincoln, p. 201, note.]

[Footnote 996: The speech was printed in full in the New York
_Tribune_, May 1, 1861.]

[Footnote 997: The New York _Tribune_, June 13th, and the Philadelphia
_Press_, June 14th, published this speech in full.]

[Footnote 998: Arnold, Lincoln, p. 193. See also his remarks in the
Senate, January 3, 1861.]


Abolitionism, debate in the Senate on, 124-126.

Abolitionists, in Illinois, 156, 158-160;
  agitation of, 194-195.

Adams, John Quincy, on Douglas, 72, 76, 89, 98;
  catechises Douglas, 111, 113.

Albany Regency, 10.

Anderson, Robert, dispatch to War Department, 442;
  moves garrison to Port Sumter, 451.

Andrews, Sherlock J., 11.

Anti-Masonry, in New York, 10.

Anti-Nebraska party. _See_ Republican party.

"Appeal of the Independent Democrats," origin, 240;
  assails motives of Douglas, 241.

Arnold, Martha, grandmother of Stephen A. Douglas, 4.

Arnold, William, ancestor of Stephen A. Douglas, 4.

Ashmun, George, 475, 476, 477.

Atchison, David R., pro-slavery leader in Missouri, 223;
  favors Nebraska bill (1853), 225;
  and repeal of Missouri Compromise, 225, 235;
  and Kansas-Nebraska bill, 256.

Badger, George E., 215.

"Barnburners," 132.

Bay Islands, Colony of, 209, 213.

Bell, John, presidential candidate, 425, 429, 440.

Benjamin, Judah P., quoted, 402, 453.

Benton, Thomas H., 44, 117, 223.

Berrien, John M., 185.

Bigler, William, 333, 335, 417, 446.

Bissell, William H., 305.

Black, Jeremiah S., controversy with Douglas, 409-410.

"Black Republicans," origin of epithet, 275;
  arraigned by Douglas, 296, 297, 304, 374-375.

"Blue Lodges" of Missouri, 283, 286.

Boyd, Linn, 182.

Brandon, birthplace of Douglas, 5, 9, 69.

Brandon Academy, 7, 9.

Breckinridge, John C., 382;
  presidential candidate (1860), 427, 428, 435, 440-441.

Breese, Sidney, judge of Circuit Court, 52;
  elected Senator, 62;
  and Federal patronage, 118-119;
  director of Great Western Railroad Company, 168-170;
  retirement, 158, 171.

Bright, Jesse D., 119, 417.

Broderick, David C., and Lecompton constitution, 335;
  and English bill, 347;
  killed, 411.

Brooks, S.S., editor of Jacksonville _News_, 19, 20, 25, 40.

Brooks, Preston, assaults Sumner, 298.

Brown, Albert G., 247, 340, 341, 397-398, 402.

Brown, John, Pottawatomie massacre, 299;
  Harper's Ferry raid, 411, 412.

Brown, Milton, of Tennessee, 89.

Browning, O.H., 66, 67, 115.

Buchanan, James, candidacy (1852), 206;
  nominated for presidency (1856), 276-278;
  indorses Kansas-Nebraska bill, 279 _n._;
  elected, 306;
  appoints Walker governor of Kansas, 324-325;
  interview with Douglas, 328;
  message, 328-329;
  advises admission of Kansas, 338;
  orders reinforcement of Sumter, 452.

Bulwer, Sir Henry, Clayton-Bulwer treaty, 209.

Butler, Andrew P., 119, 137, 216.

Calhoun, John, president of Lecompton Convention, 327.

Calhoun, John C., 120;
  on Abolitionism, 124;
  and Douglas, 125;
  radical Southern leader, 127, 138;
  on the Constitution, 140.

California, coveted by Polk, 109;
  Clayton Compromise, 130;
  Polk's programme, 133;
  statehood bill, 134;
  controversy in Senate, 135-142;
  Clay's resolutions, 176;
  new statehood bill, 181-184;
  the Omnibus, 184-186;
  admitted, 187.

Canandaigua Academy, 9, 10.

Carlin, Thomas, 42, 45, 51.

Cass, Lewis, defends Oregon policy, 99;
  introduces Ten Regiments bill, 120;
  Nicholson letter, 128;
  presidential candidate, 132;
  candidacy (1852), 206;
  and Clayton-Bulwer treaty, 209;
  and Monroe Doctrine, 211;
  on Kansas-Nebraska bill, 245-246;
  candidacy (1856), 277;
  on Sumner, 296.

Charleston Convention, delegates to, 413, 416;
  organization of, 417;
  Committee on Resolutions, 418;
  speech of Payne, 418-419;
  speech of Yancey, 419;
  speech of Pugh, 419-420;
  minority report adopted, 420;
  secession, 420;
  balloting, 420-421;
  adjournment, 421.

Chase, Salmon P., joint author of the "Appeal," 240-241;
  and Kansas-Nebraska bill, 247; 249;
  assailed by Douglas, 251-252.

Chicago, residence of Douglas, 309;
  investments of Douglas in, 310.

Chicago Convention, 425.

Chicago _Press and Tribune_, on Douglas, 349;
  declares Springfield resolutions a forgery, 370.

Chicago _Times_, Douglas organ in Northwest, 305, 328.

Chicago University, gift of Douglas to, 310.

Clark Resolution (1861), 452.

Clay, Henry, compromise programme, 176;
  and Douglas, 183-184;
  and Utah bill, 186-187;
  on passage of compromise measures, 189.

Clayton-Bulwer treaty, 209-214.

Clayton, John M., 119;
  on Oregon, 130;
  _entente_ with Bulwer, 209-210;
  assailed by Cass and Douglas, 211-212;
  replies to critics, 213-214;
  on Kansas-Nebraska bill, 247-248.

Clingman, Thomas L., 425, 444, 466.

Colfax, Schuyler, 348.

Collamer, Jacob, 289, 338, 446-447.

Colorado bill, 456;
  substitute of Douglas for, 457, 459-460;
  slavery in, 456, 458-459.

Committee on Territories, Douglas as chairman, in House, 99-100;
  in Senate, 119-120;
  Douglas deposed, 395.

Compromise of 1850, Clay's resolutions, 176-177;
  speech of Douglas, 177-181;
  compromise bills, 181-182;
  committee of thirteen, 183-184;
  debate in Senate, 184-187;
  passage, 187;
  finality resolution, 194-195; 197;
  principle involved, 189-190.

Constitutional Union party, possibility of, 349;
  nominates Bell, 425;
  prospects, 428.

Cook, Isaac, 418.

Crittenden Compromise, 446-447;
  indorsed by Douglas, 447-448;
  proposed referendum on, 449;
  opposed by Republicans, 452;
  defeated, 463.

Crittenden, John J., favors Douglas's re-election, 382;
  compromise resolutions, 446-447;
  efforts for peace, 448, 452, 463.

Cuba, acquisition of, favored by Douglas, 199, 208, 396-397.

Cutts, J. Madison, father of Adèle Cutts Douglas, 255, 316.

Danites, Mormon order, 90;
  Buchanan Democrats, 382.

Davis, Jefferson, and Douglas, 189;
  and Kansas-Nebraska bill, 237-238;
  and Freeport doctrine, 399 ff., 413;
  resolutions of, 415-416;
  assails Douglas, 423;
  on candidates and platforms, 424;
  on Southern grievances, 444;
  on committee of thirteen, 446;
  permits attack on Sumter, 474.

Davis, John, 119.

Democratic party, Baltimore convention (1844), 79;
  campaign, 80-81;
  platform, 84, 98-99, 104-105;
  convention of 1848, 131-132;
  Cass and Barnburners, 132-133;
  convention of 1852, 204-206;
  campaign, 207;
  Cincinnati convention, 276-278;
  platform and candidate, 278-279;
  "Bleeding Kansas," 299 ff.;
  election of 1856, 305-306;
  Charleston convention, 413 ff.;
  Davis resolutions, 415-416;
  minority report, 418-420;
  secession, 420;
  adjournment, 421;
  Baltimore convention, 426-428;
  Bolters' convention, 428;
  campaign of 1860, 429-441.

_Democratic Review_, and candidacy of Douglas (1852), 200-202.

Dickinson, Daniel S., 128, 382.

Divorce, Douglas on, 33-34.

Dixon, Archibald, and repeal of Missouri Compromise, 235-236;
  and Nebraska bill, 239.

Dodge, Augustus C., Nebraska bill of, 228;
  favors two Territories, 239.

Doolittle, James R., 446.

Douglas, Adèle Cutts, wife of Stephen A., 316-317;
  leader in Washington society, 336-337;
  in campaign of 1858, 383;
  in campaign of 1860, 438;
  calls upon Mrs. Lincoln, 462; 476, 489.

Douglas, Martha (_née_ Martha Denny Martin), daughter of
  Robert Martin, 145;
  marries Stephen A. Douglas, 147;
  inherits father's estate, 148;
  death, 208.

Douglas, Stephen Arnold.
  _Early years_:
    ancestry and birth, 4-5;
    boyhood, 5-7;
    apprentice, 8-9;
    in Brandon Academy, 9;
    removal to New York, 9;
    in Canandaigua Academy, 9-10;
    studies law, 11;
    goes west, 11-13;
    reaches Jacksonville, Illinois, 14;
    teaches school, 16-17;
    admitted to bar, 17.
  _Beginnings in Politics_:
    first public speech, 20-21;
    elected State's attorney, 22;
    first indictments, 23-24;
    defends Caucus system, 26-27;
    candidate for Legislature, 27-29;
    in Legislature, 29-34;
    Register of Land Office, 35-36;
    nominated for Congress (1837), 40-41;
    campaign against Stuart, 42-44;
    resumes law practice, 45;
    chairman of State committee, 47-50;
    Secretary of State, 53;
    appointed judge, 56-57;
    visits Mormons, 58;
    on the Bench, 63-64;
    candidate for Senate, 62;
    nominated for Congress, 65;
    elected, 67.
    defends Jackson, 69-72;
    reports on Election Law, 73-76;
    plea for Internal Improvements, 77-78;
    on Polk, 80;
    meets Jackson, 81-82;
    re-elected (1844), 83;
    advocates annexation of Texas, 85-90;
    and the Mormons, 91-92;
    proposes Oregon bills, 95;
    urges "re-occupation of Oregon," 96-98;
    supports Polk's policy, 99;
    appointed chairman of Committee on Territories, 99;
    offers bill on Oregon, 101;
    opposes compromise and arbitration, 101-103;
    renominated for Congress, 103;
    and the President, 104-106;
    proposes organization of Oregon, 106;
    advocates admission of Florida, 107;
    defends Mexican War, 109-110;
    claims Rio Grande as boundary, 111-114;
    seeks military appointment, 114-115;
    re-elected (1846), 115;
    defends Polk's war policy, 116-117;
    elected Senator (1847), 117-118.
  _United States Senator_:
    appointed chairman of Committee on Territories, 119;
    on Ten Regiments bill, 120-122;
    on Abolitionism, 124-126;
    second attempt to organize Oregon, 129;
    favors Clayton Compromise, 130;
    proposes extension of Missouri Compromise line, 131;
    offers California statehood bills, 134-137;
    advocates "squatter sovereignty," 138-139;
    presents resolutions of Illinois Legislature, 140;
    marriage, 147;
    denies ownership of slaves, 149-150;
    removes to Chicago, 169;
    advocates central railroad, 169-172;
    speech on California (1850), 177 ff.;
    concerts territorial bills with Toombs and Stephens, 181-182;
    vote on compromise measures, 187-188;
    defends Fugitive Slave Law, 191-194;
    presidential aspirations, 195-196;
    on intervention in Hungary, 199-200;
    candidacy (1852), 200-206;
    in campaign of 1852, 207;
    re-elected Senator, 208 _n._;
    death of his wife, 208;
    on Clayton-Bulwer treaty, 211-214;
    hostility to Great Britain, 215-216;
    travels abroad, 217-219;
    proposes military colonization of Nebraska, 221;
    urges organization of Nebraska, 224-225;
    report of January 4, 1854, 229 ff.;
    offers substitute for Dodge bill, 231-232;
    interprets new bill, 233-234;
    and Dixon, 235-236;
    drafts Kansas-Nebraska bill, 237;
    secures support of administration, 237-238;
    reports bill, 239;
    arraigned by Independent Democrats, 241;
    replies to "Appeal," 241-243;
    proposes amendments to Kansas-Nebraska bill, 246, 249;
    closes debate, 251-254;
    answers protests, 256-257;
    faces mob in Chicago, 258-259;
    denounces Know-Nothings, 263;
    in campaign of 1854, 264 ff.;
    debate with Lincoln, 265-266;
    and Shields, 267, 268;
    on the elections, 269-272;
    and Wade, 272-273;
    on "Black Republicanism," 275-276;
    candidacy at Cincinnati, 276-278;
    supports Buchanan, 278;
    reports on Kansas, 289-293;
    proposes admission of Kansas, 293;
    replies to Trumbull, 294;
    and Sumner, 296-298;
    reports Toombs bill, 300-301;
    omits referendum provision, 302;
    subsequent defense, 303-304;
    in campaign of 1856, 304-306;
    second marriage, 316;
    on Dred Scott decision, 321-323;
    interview with Walker, 325;
      and Buchanan, 327-328;
    denounces Lecompton constitution, 329-332;
    report on Kansas, 338-340;
    speech on Lecomptonism, 341-343;
    rejects English bill, 345-347;
    Republican ally, 348;
    re-election opposed, 349-350;
    in Chicago, 352-354;
    opening speech of campaign, 354-357;
    speech at Bloomington, 358-360;
    speech at Springfield, 360-361;
    agrees to joint debate, 362;
    first debate at Ottawa, 363-370;
    Springfield resolutions, 370;
    Freeport debate, 370-375;
    debate at Jonesboro, 375-378;
    debate at Charleston, 378-381;
    friends and foes, 381-382;
    resources, 382-383;
    debate at Galesburg, 383-386;
    debate at Quincy, 386-388;
    debate at Alton, 388-390;
    the election, 391-392;
    journey to South and Cuba, 393-395;
    deposed from chairmanship of Committee on Territories, 395;
    supports Slidell project, 396;
    debate of February 23, 1859, 397 ff.;
    opposes slave-trade, 403-404;
    _Harper's Magazine_ article, 405-409;
    controversy with Black, 409-410;
    in Ohio, 410-411;
    presidential candidate of Northwest, 413, 416;
    and the South, 414;
    and Republicans, 414-415;
    candidate at Charleston, 416 ff.;
    defends his orthodoxy, 422-424;
    nominated at Baltimore, 427;
    letter of acceptance, 428;
    personal canvass, 429-439;
    on election of Lincoln, 439 ff.;
    and Crittenden compromise, 446-448;
    speech of January 3, 1861, 449 ff.;
      efforts for peace, 448, 452, 453;
    offers fugitive slave bill, 454;
    and Mason, 454-455;
    and Wigfall, 455-456;
    fears the Blairs, 461;
    opinion of President-elect, 461;
    and Lincoln, 462-463;
    at inauguration, 464;
    and the inaugural, 466-468;
    on reinforcement of Sumter, 468-469;
    in the confidence of Lincoln, 469-470;
    on policy of administration, 471-473;
    faces war, 474;
    closeted with Lincoln, April 14, 475-477;
    press dispatch, 477;
    first War Democrat, 478;
    mission in Northwest, 478-480;
    speech at Bellaire, 480-482;
    speech at Columbus, 482-483;
    speech at Springfield, 483-485;
    speech at Chicago, 485-487;
    premonitions of war, 487-488;
    last illness and death, 488-489.
  _Personal traits_:
    Physical appearance, 22-23, 69, 294-295, 364-365;
    limitations upon his culture, 36-37, 119-120, 215-217, 270-272;
    his indebtedness to Southern associations, 147-148, 317-318;
    advocate rather than judge, 70-71, 121-122, 177-181, 270-272, 321;
    liberal in religion, 263, 317;
    retentive memory, 319-320;
    his impulsiveness, 320;
    his generosity of temper, 320;
    his loyalty to friends, 267-268, 318-319;
    his prodigality in pecuniary matters, 309-310;
    his domestic relations, 317;
    the man and the politician, 270-272.
  _As a party leader_:
    early interest in politics, 8, 10;
    schooling in politics, 18-19;
    his talent as organizer, 25 ff.; 39 ff., 47-50;
    secret of his popularity, 318-319;
    his partisanship, 324.
  _As a statesman_:
    readiness in debate, 320;
    early manner of speaking, 70 ff.;
    later manner, 251-252, 294-297;
    insight into value of the public domain, 36, 311-312;
    belief in territorial expansion, 100, 107-108;
    his Chauvinism, 87-88, 97-98, 101-103, 199, 211-214;
    his statecraft, 100, 107-108, 174-181, 270-272, 314-315;
    abhorrence of civil war, 449-451, 484-487;
    love of the Union, 324, 436-437, 481, 484, 489.

Douglass, Benajah, grandfather of Stephen A. Douglas, 4-5.

Douglass, Sally Fisk, mother of Stephen A. Douglas, 5.

Douglass, Stephen A., father of Stephen A. Douglas, 5.

Douglass, William, ancestor of Stephen A. Douglas, 4.

Dred Scott decision, Douglas on, 321-323, 356, 359-360, 372-373, 377;
  Lincoln on, 353, 357, 361, 376-377.

Duncan, Joseph, 50, 60.

Election Law of 1842, 73;
  Douglas on, 74-75.

Elections, State and local, 22, 29, 50, 61, 158-159, 267;
  congressional, 44, 67, 73-76, 83, 115-116, 207, 267;
  senatorial, 62, 117, 207, 208 _n._, 268-269, 391-392;
  presidential, 50, 306, 440-441.

English bill, reported, 343;
    opposed by Douglas, 345-346;
  passed, 347.

Everett, Edward, 256, 429.

Fessenden, William P., 473-474.

Field, Alexander P., 52.

Fillmore, Millard, 280.

Fitch, Graham N., 335, 336.

Fitzpatrick, Benjamin, 428.

Foote, Henry S., on Abolitionism, 124-125;
  and Douglas, 126;
  offers finality resolution, 197.

Ford, Thomas, 61, 90, 154.

Forney, John W., 305, 437;
  on Douglas and Lincoln, 480.

Fort Pickens, question of evacuating, 468 ff.

Fort Sumter, occupation advised, 442;
  occupied, 451;
  abortive attempt to reinforce, 452;
  question of evacuating, 468 ff.;
  attack upon, 474;
  capitulation of, 475.

Francis, Simeon, 46.

Frémont, John C., 280.

Freeport doctrine, foreshadowed, 322, 359-360;
  stated, 372-373;
  analyzed by Lincoln, 376-377;
  effect upon South, 381-382;
  denounced in Senate, 397 ff.;
  defended in _Harper's Magazine_, 405-409.

Free-Soil party, convention of, 132;
  holds balance of power in House, 133;
  in Illinois, 158-160.

Fugitive Slave Law, passed, 187;
  not voted upon by Douglas, 188;
  defended by Douglas, 191-194;
  violations of, 194-195;
  repeal proposed, 195;
  attitude of South, 195;
  Lincoln on, 371;
  evasions of, 445-446;
  supplementary law proposed by Douglas, 454.

Fusion party, in Illinois, 264 ff.
  _See_ Republican party.

Galena alien case, 47, 48, 54.

Granger, Gehazi, 9.

Great Britain, animus of Douglas toward, concerning Oregon, 88,
  93-94, 97, 101, 102;
  concerning Central America, 211-213, 215-216; 217.

Great Western Railroad Company, 168.

Greeley, Horace, and Douglas, 320, 348;
  favors re-election of Douglas, 349.

Green, James S., 333, 335, 338, 401, 457.

Greenhow's _History of the Northwest Coast of North America_, 94, 95.

Grimes, James W., 446.

Guthrie, James, 420, 427.

Hale, John P., 124, 138, 186.

Hall, Willard P., 223-224.

Hannegan, Edward A., 103-104.

Hardin, John J., 21-22, 27, 91, 92.

_Harper's Magazine_, essay by Douglas in, 405 ff.

Harris, Thomas L., 265.

Helper's _Impending Crisis_, 412-413.

Herndon, William H., Lincoln's law partner, 351.

Hise, Elijah, drafts treaty, 210.

Hoge, Joseph B., 118.

Homestead bill of Douglas, 311.

Honduras and its dependencies, claimed by Great Britain, 209-211.

Howe, Henry, 9.

Hunter, R.M.T., 420, 446.

Illinois and Michigan Canal, lands granted to, 31;
  Douglas and construction of, 32-33;
  probable influence upon settlement, 154.

Illinois Central Railroad, inception of, 168;
  project taken up by Douglas, 169-170;
  bill for land grant to, 170;
  legislative history of, 171-173;
  larger aspects of, 174 ff.;
  in the campaign of 1858, 382.

Illinois _Republican_, attack upon office of, 37-38.

Illinois _State Register_, on Douglas, 46, 81-82;
  and Springfield clique, 61-62;
  editorial by Douglas in, 149-150;
  forecast of Nebraska legislation, 228.

Indian claims, in Nebraska, 220, 222-225, 238-239.

Internal Improvements, agitation in Illinois, 29-30;
  Douglas on, 30-31.

Iverson, Alfred, 443, 444.

Jackson, Andrew, 16, 20;
  defended by Douglas, 69-72, 78;
  and Douglas, 81-82.

Jacksonville, Illinois, early home of Douglas, 14 ff.

Johnson, Hadley D., 226, 238-239.

Johnson, Herschel V., 428.

Johnson, Thomas, 225, 226.

Judiciary bill, in Illinois legislature, 54-56, 59.

Kansas, first settlers in, 283;
  colonists of Emigrant Aid Company in, 283;
  defect in organic act of, 284;
  first elections in, 284 ff.;
  invasion by Missourians, 286;
  first territorial legislature, 286-287;
  Topeka convention and free State legislature, 288;
  sack of Lawrence, 299;
  raid of John Brown, 299;
  convention elected, 325;
  free State party in control of legislature, 326;
  Lecompton convention, 326-327;
  vote on constitution, 337-338;
  land ordinance rejected, 347.

Kansas-Nebraska bill, origin of, 236-239;
  in Democratic caucus, 243-245;
  wording criticised, 245;
  amended, 246, 248, 249, 250;
  passes to third reading in Senate, 250;
  course in House, 254-255;
  defeat of Clayton amendment, 255-256;
  passes Senate, 256;
  becomes law, 256;
  arouses North, 256 ff.;
  popular sovereignty in, 281-282.

King, William F., 172.

Knowlton, Caleb, 9.

Know-Nothing party, origin, 262;
  denounced by Douglas, 263;
  in Northwest, 263-264;
  nominates Fillmore, 280.

Kossuth, Louis, reception of, 199 ff.

Lamborn, Josiah, 16.

Lane, James H., in Kansas, 287-288.

Lane, Joseph, 205, 428.

Lecompton constitution, origin, 326-327;
  denounced by Douglas, 329 ff.;
  vote upon, 337;
  submitted to Congress, 338;
  bill to admit Kansas with, 343.

Lee, Robert E., 482.

Letcher, John, 480.

Liberty party, 116, 158.

Lincoln, Abraham, in Illinois legislature, 32 _n._;
  leader of "the Long Nine," 34;
  debate with Douglas (1839), 46;
  on Douglas, 46;
  elected to Congress, 116;
  debate with Douglas (1854), 265-266;
  "the Peoria Truce," 266 _n._;
  candidate for Senate, 268-269;
  Republican nominee for Senate (1858), 350;
  early career, 351;
  personal traits, 351-352;
  addresses Republican convention, 352-353;
  hears Douglas in Chicago, 354;
  replies to Douglas, 357-358;
  speech at Springfield, 361;
  proposes joint debates, 362;
  personal appearance, 364-365;
  debate at Ottawa, 365-370;
  Freeport debate, 370-375;
  debate at Jonesboro, 375-378;
  debate at Charleston, 378-381;
  resources, 382;
  debate at Galesburg, 383-386;
  debate at Quincy, 386-388;
  debate at Alton, 388-390;
  defeated, 392;
  in Ohio, 410-411;
  presidential candidate, 425;
  elected, 440-441;
  enters Washington, 461;
  and advisers, 461, 462;
  confers with Douglas, 463-464;
  inauguration, 464;
  address, 464-466;
  defended by Douglas, 466 ff.;
  consults Douglas, 469-470;
  not generally known, 471;
  decides to provision Sumter, 474;
  calls for troops, 475;
  confers with Douglas, 476-477, 478;
  last interview with Douglas, 479.

Logan, Stephen T., 23.

"Lord Coke's Assembly," 53, 55.

McClernand, John A., 51, 55, 119, 182.

McConnell, Murray, 14, 48.

McRoberts, Samuel, 42.

Marble, Mary Ann, wife of William Douglass, 4.

Marble, Thomas, ancestor of Stephen A. Douglas, 4.

Marshall, Edward C., 203.

Martin, Colonel Robert, 145;
  plantations of, 146;
  will of, 148-149.

Mason, James M., 454, 455, 469.

Matteson, Joel A., 268-269;
  letter of Douglas to, 313-314.

May, William L., 40.

Mexico, Slidell's mission to, 109;
  dictatorship in, 111;
  treaty with Texas, 111-112;
  territory lost by, 116, 117;
  treaty of 1848, 123.

Mexican War, announced by Polk, 105, 109;
  defended by Douglas, 109-112, 116-117;
  appointments in, 114, 117;
  terminated, 123.

Minnesota bill, to organize territorial government, 142;
  to admit State, 340.

Minnesota Block, Douglas residence in Washington, 337, 488.

Missouri Compromise, and annexation of Texas, 89-90;
  and organization of Oregon, 130;
  and organization of Mexican cession, 131, 133;
  and organization of Nebraska, 221, 230-231, 232-233, 235;
  repeal agitated by Atchison, 235-236;
  repealed, 237 ff.;
  declared unconstitutional, 321-322.

Monroe doctrine, debated in Senate, 211-214.

Moore, John, 60.

Mormons, settle in Illinois, 57-58;
  politics of, 58-61;
  disorders in Hancock County, 90-91;
  advised to emigrate, 91;
  removal, 92;
  in Utah, 220.

Morris, Edward J., 96.

Mosquito protectorate, 209, 210-211.

Nashville convention (1844), 81.

_National Era_, occasions controversy in Senate, 124.

Native American party, 262.
  _See_ Know-Nothing party.

Nauvoo, settled by Mormons, 57;
  charter repealed, 90;
  evacuated, 92.

Nauvoo Legion, 58.

Nebraska, first bill to organize, 95;
  second bill, 142;
  bill for military colonization of, 221;
  third bill, 223-224;
  Dodge bill, 228;
  report of Douglas on, 239 ff.;
  new bill reported, 231;
  bill printed, 232;
  manuscript of, 233.
  _See_ Kansas-Nebraska bill.

Negro equality, Douglas on, 275-276, 356-357, 384;
  Lincoln on, 358, 361, 368, 379, 385.

New England Emigrant Aid Company, 283.

New Mexico, slavery in, 127 ff.;
  Clayton compromise, 130;
  controversy in Congress, 130-131;
  Polk's policy, 133;
  Douglas's statehood bills, 134-137;
  Taylor's policy, 166;
  Clay's resolutions, 176;
  territorial bill for, 181-183;
  in the Omnibus, 184-186;
  organized, 187.

New York _Times_, supports Lincoln (1858), 382;
  on Douglas, 411, 429, 436, 470.

New York _Tribune_, on Douglas, 332, 348, 403.

_Niles' Register_, cited as a source, 112.

Non-intervention, principle of, Cass on, 128;
  in Clayton compromise, 130;
  Douglas on, 138-139;
  in compromise of 1850, 181-187, 189-190;
  in Kansas-Nebraska legislation, 230-231, 236, 243-249, 289-292, 397-402.

"Old Fogyism," 200.

Oregon, emigration from Illinois to, 93;
  "re-occupation" of, 94;
  international status of, 94-95;
  Douglas on, 96-98;
  Polk's policy toward, 98-99;
  bill to protect settlers in, 101;
  and treaty with Great Britain, 103, 106;
  bills to organize, 106, 108, 129;
  Clayton compromise, 130;
  organized, 131.

Pacific Railroad, and organization of Nebraska, 222-224, 238-239.

Parker, Nahum, 8.

Parker, Theodore, on Douglas, 393.

Party organizations, beginnings of, in Illinois, 25-27, 38-42, 49-50;
  efficiency of, 65-66, 79, 103;
  sectional influence upon, 158-160;
  institutional character of, 157-158, 260-262.

Payne, Henry B., 418-419.

Peace Convention, 453;
  resolution of, 463.

Peck, Ebenezer, 26, 56.

Personal Liberty Acts, 445, 454.

Pierce, Franklin, presidential candidacy, 204-205;
  approves Kansas-Nebraska bill, 237-238;
  signs Kansas-Nebraska bill, 256;
  opinion on slavery extension, 256 _n._;
  candidacy at Cincinnati, 276-277.

Political parties, and annexation of Texas, 84;
  and Mexican War, 109;
  and slavery in Territories, 127-129;
  and election of 1848, 132-133;
  in Illinois, 157-158;
  and Free-Soilers, 158 ff.;
  and compromise of 1850, 195;
  nationalizing influence of, 260-262;
  decline of Whigs, 262;
  rise of Know-Nothings, 262;
  and Nebraska Act, 264 ff.;
  rise of Republican party, 273-274;
  and "Bleeding Kansas," 294, 299-302, 304-306;
  and Lecomptonism, 332 ff.;
  possible re-alignment of, 348-349;
  and Lincoln-Douglas contest, 349-350, 381-382, 393;
  and Freeport doctrine, 397-402, 413-414;
  and issues of 1860, 415 ff.;
  and election of 1860, 440-441.

Polk, James K., presidential candidacy, 70;
  indorsed by Douglas, 80;
  inaugural of, 98;
  on Oregon, 99;
  negotiates with Great Britain, 103-104;
  war message of, 105;
  and Douglas, 105-106;
  announces Oregon treaty, 106;
  covets California, 109;
  and appointments, 114, 118-119;
  urges indemnity, 127;
  and slavery in Territories, 131;
  proposes territorial governments, 133;
  proposes statehood bills, 135.

Popular sovereignty, doctrine anticipated, 89;
  phrase coined, 253;
  in Kansas-Nebraska Act, 281-282;
  tested in Kansas, 283 ff.;
  and Dred Scott decision, 322;
  and Lecompton constitution, 326-327;
  defended by Douglas, 329-332, 338-340, 342-343;
  indorsed by Seward, 348;
  debated by Lincoln and Douglas, 355, 357, 359-360, 372-373, 376-377;
  denounced by South, 397 ff.;
  defended in _Harper's Magazine_ 405-409;
  ridiculed by Black, 409-410;
  operates against slavery, 410-411, 429;
  Douglas urges further concessions to, 457, 459-460.

Powell, Lazarus W., 446.

Public lands, granted to Illinois for canal, 31;
  Douglas and administration of, 35-36;
  squatters and land leagues, 163-164;
  granted to Illinois Central, 170 ff.;
  granted to Indians, 220;
  and proposed military colonies, 221;
  and proposed Pacific railroad, 222-224;
  in Kansas, 283-285;
  Douglas and proper distribution of, 311-313.

Pugh, George E., and Lecompton constitution, 335;
  and English bill, 347; 413;
  speech in Charleston convention, 419-420;
  and Douglas, 422, 424.

Ralston, J.H., 58.

Raymond, Henry J., editor of New York _Times_, 436.

Reapportionment Act of 1843, 64, 65.

Reeder, A.H., governor of Kansas, 284;
  and elections, 285, 286;
  joins free State party, 287;
  chosen senator at Topeka, 288.

Reid, David S., 145, 146.

Republican party, rise of, in Illinois, 264 ff.;
  elections of 1854, 269;
  origin of name, 273;
  composition of, 273-274;
  Philadelphia convention, 279-280;
  and "Bleeding Kansas," 304-305;
  opposes Lecomptonism, 334;
  Chicago convention, 421;
  nominates Lincoln, 425;
  elections of 1860, 437, 440-441.

Resolution of Illinois Legislature, presented in Senate, 139-140;
  origin, 159-160;
  controls Douglas (1850), 184.

Rice, Henry M., 446.

Richardson, William A., on House Committee on Territories, 182;
  steers Kansas-Nebraska bill through House, 254-255;
  in Cincinnati convention, 277;
  candidate for governor, 305;
  in Charleston convention, 416 ff.;
  in Baltimore convention, 427;
  forecasts election, 429.

Richmond, Dean, 426.

River and harbor improvements, Douglas on, 77-78, 313-314.
  _See also_ Internal Improvements.

Robinson, Charles, leader of free State party in Kansas, 287, 288.

Roman Church, Adèle Cutts an adherent of, 317;
  attitude of Douglas toward, 317.

Sangamo _Journal_, on Caucus system, 28;
  on Douglas, 41.

Santa Anna, treaty with Texas, 111, 112.

Scott, Winfield, 482.

Secession, apprehended, 442;
  of South Carolina, 447;
  of Cotton States, 452;
  and border States, 474.

Seward, William H., and Douglas, 251;
  loses Republican nomination, 425;
  on committee of thirteen, 453;
  and the Blairs, 461, 462.

Shadrach rescue, 194.

Shannon, Wilson, governor of Kansas, 288.

Sheahan, James W., biographer of Douglas, 218, 416;
 editor of Chicago _Times_, 305.

Sheridan, James B., 438.

Shields, James, senator from Illinois, 171;
  and Illinois Central Railroad, 175;
  fails of re-election, 267 ff.

Slavery, in North Carolina, 147-148;
  in Illinois, 155-156, 178, 242-243;
  in Kansas, 287, 298;
  Nebraska bill not designed to extend, 234;
  Douglas on extension of, 179-180, 243;
  peonage, 186;
  Douglas on, 126, 311, 388, 390, 415;
  Lincoln on, 351, 352, 358, 361, 368-369, 379, 381, 385, 386, 390.

Slave-trade, revival proposed, 403, 421;
  condemned by Douglas, 403-404.

Slidell, John, mission to Mexico, 109;
  seeks Douglas's defeat (1858), 381-382, 391;
  project to purchase Cuba, 396;
  at Charleston, 417.

Smith, Joseph, on Douglas, 58-59;
  to Mormon voters, 59-60;
  on polygamy, 90;
  murdered, 90.

Smith, Theophilus W., 48, 54, 55.

Smithsonian Institution, foundation of, 310;
  Douglas on board of Regents, 310.

Snyder, Adam W., 59, 60.

Southern Rights advocates, 194.

Spoils system, countenanced by Douglas, 198, 207.

Springfield Resolutions, in Lincoln-Douglas debates, 366-367, 368,
  369, 370, 374.

"Squatter sovereignty," Cass and Dickinson on, 128;
  favored by Douglas, 138-139;
  genesis of, 161 ff.;
  explained by Douglas, 184-185;
  and compromise of 1850, 189-190.
  _See_ Popular sovereignty.

Squier, E.G., drafts treaty, 210.

"Star of the West," sent to Sumter, 452.

Stephens, Alexander H., and annexation of Texas, 89;
  and territorial bills (1850), 181-182.

Stowe, Harriet B., description of Douglas, 295-296.

Stuart, Charles E., 335, 347.

Stuart, John T., lawyer, 23;
  Douglas's opponent (1838), 42-44;
  Whig politician, 50, 58.

Sumner, Charles, and Fugitive Slave Act, 195;
  on Kansas, 294, 296;
  altercation with Douglas, 296-298;
  assaulted, 298;
  foe to compromise, 463.

Tariff, views of Douglas on, 314-315.

Taylor, Zachary, in Mexican War, 109, 114;
  nominated for presidency, 132;
  message, 166.

Texas, as campaign issue, 84;
  Douglas on annexation of, 85;
  and slavery, 89;
  and Missouri Compromise, 90;
  joint resolution adopted, 90;
  admitted, 100-101;
  and Mexican boundary, 110-114, 122-123;
  and New Mexico boundary, 176, 187.

"The Third House," 53, 54.

Toombs, Robert, 189, 190;
  Kansas bill, 300; 303, 340;
  on committee of thirteen, 446.

Trumbull, Lyman, senator from Illinois, 268-269;
  Democracy questioned, 274-275;
  on Kansas, 294;
  on Toombs bill, 302;
  opposes Douglas, 349.

Tyler, John, 79 _n._; 84.

Urquhart, J.D., Douglas's law partner, 45.

Utah, territorial organization of, 181-187;
  Mormons in, 220;
  polygamy and intervention in, 401.

Van Buren, Martin, nominated by Free-Soilers, 132.

Wade, Benjamin F., 269, 272, 338, 446, 458, 463.

Walker, Cyrus, 45, 58.

Walker, Isaac P., 140, 174.

Walker, Robert J., governor of Kansas, 325.

Washington _Sentinel_, prints Nebraska bill, 232.

Washington Territory, organization of, 224.

Washington _Union_, on Douglas, 207;
  forecast of Nebraska legislation, 228;
  supports Kansas-Nebraska bill, 240;
  assails Douglas, 341, 381.

Webster, Daniel, on the Constitution, 140.

Whig party, convention of 1848, 132;
  campaign of 1852, 207;
  decline, 260-262;
  nominates Fillmore, 280.

Whitney, Asa, 222.

Wigfall, Louis T., 455-456, 468.

Wilmot proviso, 107, 117, 128, 132.

Wilson, Henry, Republican leader, 348;
  favors re-election of Douglas, 349;
  foe to compromise, 463, 473-474.

Winthrop, Robert C., 86.

Wood, Fernando, 418.

Wyandot Indians, memorial of, 222, 223.

Wyatt, John, 21-22.

Yancey, William L., resolution of, 132;
  speech in Charleston convention, 419.

Yates, Richard, 265.

"Young America," 198, 200, 214.

Young, Brigham, 91.

Young, Richard M., 62, 118, 119.

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