صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

with me in the elevation, I would rather stand on that eminence than wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch's brow.'

"We know, and the world knows, that Lincoln did reach that high, nay, far higher eminence, and that he did reach it in such a way that the 'oppressed' did share with him in the elevation.

"Such were the champions who, in 1858, were to discuss, before the voters of Illinois, and with the whole Nation as spectators, the political questions then pending, and especially the vital questions relating to slavery. It was not a single combat, but extended through a whole campaign.

"On the return of Douglas from Washington to Illinois, in July, 1858, Lincoln and Douglas being candidates for the senate, the former challenged his rival to a series of joint debates, to be held at the principal towns in the state. The challenge was accepted, and it was agreed that each discussion should Occupy three hours; that the speakers should alternate in the opening and the close-the opening speech to occupy one hour, the reply one hour and a-half, and the close half-anhour. The meetings were held in the open air, for no hall could hold the vast crowds which attended.

"In addition to the immense mass of hearers, reporters from all the principal newspapers in the country attended, so that the morning after each debate the speeches were published and eagerly read by a large part, perhaps a majority of all the voters of the United States. The attention of the American people was thus arrested, and they watched with intense interest, and devoured every argument of the champions.

"Each of these great men, I doubt not, at that time sincerely believed he was right. Douglas' ardor, while in such a conflict, would make him think, for the time being, he was right, and I know that Lincoln argued for freedom against the extension of slavery with the most profound conviction that on the result hung the fate of his country. Lincoln had two advantages over Douglas; he had the best side of the question, and the best temper. He was always good-humored, always had an apt story for illustration, while Douglas sometimes, when hard pressed, was irritable.

"Douglas carried away the most popular applause, but Lincoln made the deeper and more lasting impression. Douglas did not disdain an immediate ad captandum triumph, while Lincoln aimed at permanent conviction. Sometimes when Lincoln's friends urged him to raise a storm of applause (which he could always do by his happy illustrations and amusing stories), he refused, saying the occasion was too serious, the issue too grave. 'I do not seek applause,' said he, ‘nor to amuse the people, I want to convince them.'

"It was often observed, during this canvass, that while Douglas was sometimes greeted with the loudest cheers, when Lincoln closed, the people seemed solemn and serious, and could be heard all through the crowd, gravely and anxiously discussing the topics on which he had been speaking.

"Douglas secured the immediate object of the struggle, but the manly bearing, the vigorous logic, the honesty and sincerity, the great intellectual powers exhibited by Mr. Lincoln, prepared the way, and two years later, secured his nomination and election to the presidency. It is a touching incident, illustrating the patriotism of both these statesmen, that, widely as they differed, and keen as had been their

rivalry, just as soon as the life of the Republic was menaced by treason, they joined hands to shield and save the country they loved."


The popular designations often applied to Lincoln and Douglas were the "Rail Splitter" for the one and the "Little Giant" for the other. The last debate in the series took place at Alton in October, 1858, which has been described somewhat graphically by Francis Grierson in his volume entitled, "The Valley of Shadows," being the author's recollections of "the Lincoln country" in 1858-1863. Though now residing in England Grierson as a lad lived with his parents on a farm in Illinois, and his book contains many of his early recollections and impressions. His statement of the political beliefs of the two men is this: "Douglas stood for the doctrine that slavery was nationalized by the Constitution, that Congress had no authority to prevent its introduction in the new Territories like Kansas and Nebraska, and that the people of each State could alone decide whether they should be slave State or free. Lincoln opposed the introduction of slavery into the new Territories."

The debate at the Alton meeting, says Grierson, "resembled a duel between two men-of-war facing each other in the open, the Little Giant hurling at his opponent, from the flagship of slavery, the deadliest missiles, Lincoln calmly waiting to sink his antagonist by a single broadside." In the earlier debates Douglas seemed to have the advantage. "A past master in tact and audacity, skilled in the art of rhetorical skirmishing, he had no equal on the 'stump,' while in the Senate he was feared by the most brilliant debaters for his ready wit and his dashing eloquence.

"Regarded in the light of historical experience, reasoned about in the light of spiritual reality, and from the point of view that nothing can happen by chance, it seems as if Lincoln and Douglas were predestined to meet side by side in this discussion, and unless I dwell in detail on the mental and physical contrast the speakers presented it would be impossible to give an adequate idea of the startling difference in the two temperaments: Douglas-short, plump, and petulant; Lincoln-— long, gaunt, and self-possessed; the one white-haired and florid, the other blackhaired and swarthy; the one educated and polished, the other unlettered and primitive. Douglas had the assurance of a man of authority, Lincoln had moments of deep mental depression, often bordering on melancholy, yet controlled by a fixed, and, I may say, predestined will, for it can no longer be doubted that without the marvellous blend of humor and stolid patience so conspicuous in his character, Lincoln's genius would have turned to madness after the defeat of the Northern army at Bull Run, and the world would have had something like a repetition of Napoleon's fate after the burning of Moscow. Lincoln's humor was the balance-pole of his genius that enabled him to cross the most giddy heights without losing his head.

"Judge Douglas opened the debate in a sonorous voice plainly heard throughout the assembly, and with a look of mingled defiance and confidence he marshalled his facts and deduced his arguments. To the vigor of his attack there was added the prestige of the Senate Chamber, and for some moments it looked as if he would carry the majority with him, a large portion of the crowd being Pro-Slavery men,

while many others were 'on the fence' waiting to be persuaded. At last, after a great oratorical effort, he brought his speech to a close amidst the shouts and yells of thousands of admirers."


[ocr errors]

"And now Abraham Lincoln rose from his seat, stretched his long bony limbs upward as if to get them into working order, and stood like some solitary pine on a lonely summit, very tall, very dark, very gaunt, and very rugged, his swarthy features stamped with a sad serenity; and the instant he began to speak the ungainly 'mouth lost its heaviness, the half-listless eyes attained a wondrous power, and the people stood bewildered and breathless under the natural magic of the strangest, most original personality known to the English speaking world since Robert Burns. There were other tall and dark men in the heterogeneous assembly, but not one who resembled the speaker. Every movement of his long, muscular frame denoted inflexible earnestness, and a something issued forth, elemental and mystical, that told what the man had been, what he was, and what he would do in the future. There were moments when he seemed all legs and feet, and again he appeared all head and neck; yet every look of the deep-set eyes, every movement of the prominent jaw, every wave of the hard-gripping hand, produced an impression, and before he had spoken twenty minutes the conviction took possession of thousands that here was the prophetic man of the present and the political saviour of the future. Judges of human nature saw at a glance that a man so ungainly, so natural, so earnest, and so forcible, had no place in his mental economy for the thing called vanity."


"Douglas had been theatrical and scholarly, but this tall, homely man was creating by his very looks what the brilliant lawyer and experienced Senator had failed to make people see and feel. The Little Giant had assumed striking attitudes, played tricks with his flowing white hair, mimicking the airs of authority with patronizing allusions, but these affectations, usually so effective when he addressed an audience alone, went for nothing when brought face to face with realities. Lincoln had no genius for gesture and no desire to produce a sensation. The failure of Senator Douglas to bring conviction to critical minds was caused by three things: a lack of logical sequence in argument, a lack of intuitional judgment, and a vanity that was caused by too much intellect and too little heart. Douglas had been arrogant and vehement, Lincoln was now logical and penetrating. The Little Giant was a living picture of ostentatious vanity; from every feature of Lincoln's face there radiated the calm, inherent strength that always accompanies. power. He relied on no props. With a pride sufficient to protect his mind and a will sufficient to defend his body, he drank water when Douglas, with all his wit and rhetoric, could begin and end nothing without stimulants.

"Here, then, was one man out of all the millions who believed in himself, who did not consult with others about what to say, who never for a moment respected the opinion of men who preached a lie. My old friend, Don Piatt, in his personal

« السابقةمتابعة »