Speech of Hom. F. A. Eastman.
Delivered at the Great Union Demonstration at the Hall of Representatives, Friday Evening, January 9th, 1863.
After Gen. Oglesby had concluded, Mr. Eastman being called for, spoke substantially as follows:
MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: — I was present at the Democratic meeting in a room in this building last night. Can it be that it was this Hall? The atmosphere now is different. The audience is not the same. The walls are decorated with flags, on which are emblazoned the names of a dozen hard fought battles. Transparencies are here, bearing patriotic mottoes. And the responses — thanks be to God! the Union is safe! [tremendous applause.] Gen. Oglesby has given to this imposing audience an inspiration from the battle-fields of the Union — [cheers,] — aye, from the sainted dead. [renewed applause.]
Chicago has heretofore been represented on this platform by men who have one set of opinions for their people at home, and another set for the people at home, and another set for the people assembled in Springfield. I know Mr. Goudy and Mr. Fuller — they are my neighbors, but I have never known them in Chicago when they professed the principles that men going by the names respectively of Goudy and Fuller have professed here. If these gentlemen shall change as much in their forms and features as they have changed in their political opinions since they left home, when they get back their own wives will not recognize them. [Laughter.] Their children will run in affright from them. [Laughter and applause.] My sentiments have undergone no change in consequence of the temporary change of my residence. I have never been anything else than a Democrat; and I know of no place for a genuine Democrat but in the ranks of the War Party of the loyal States. You see, we in Chicago and the northern part of the State have a kind of Democracy, the real old Jefferson and Jackson kind, which the majority party in our General Assembly call abolitionism. Well, up with us we call the Democracy they have down this way treason — or the next thing to it. I cannot say, as Col. Dougherty has said, that I took my first lessons in patriotism and loyalty under Gen. Jackson. But I can say with pride that I imbibed my political principles from the teachings of the lamented, Douglas. I follow both his teachings and examples in giving my humble support to the Administration.
We hear every day that the abolitionists caused this war — meaning, of course, the Republicans. It is false. The Southern wing of the Democratic party was mostly, if not alone, to blame for these calamities. The leaders at the South disregarded their pledges to the Northern Democrats. They repudiated the contract made on the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, that the people of the territories, and not Congress, should settle the question whether they would have slavery or not. If the rebellion was predicated on the issue raised in 1860 on slavery, then the rebellion argues as much against the Northern Democratic creed as against the Republican. Look a little into this matter. The Republicans held that slavery should be prohibited by Congress in all the territories. The South insisted that slavery should go everywhere, and be protected in all places by the Federal Government. The Northern Democracy held, with Douglas, that the question should be left to the free choice of the people of the territories. The leaders at the South did not oppose Mr. Lincoln. The issue was made, not against the Republicans, but against Douglas and the great party that nominated him to the Presidency. In order to defeat Douglas, the leaders at the South broke up the Charleston Convention. In order to defeat the illustrious Illinois statesman before the people, they broke up the Democratic party. Thus it was not abolitionism that Jeff. Davis and his followers professed to fear; it was popular sovereignty. Rather than make dishonorable and dangerous concessions, Douglas defied his enemies, and exposed their traitorous designs on every stunt in every State that now remains loyal to the Government.
Let me relate to you something that I saw with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears. On the day before the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, I happened to be in Mr. Douglas' library, at Washington. A number of other gentlemen were present, some of them distinguished. The conversation turned naturally upon events to come of the next day. Presently, two distinguished Southern gentlemen came in. One of them said to Douglas, "Do you intend to support Lincoln?" "That," answered Douglas, "will depend upon circumstances." "We," continued the gentleman from the South, "have made up our minds. We shall retire from the Union." Douglas pointed out to them the folly and madness of such a course; "you have now, and will have when Lincoln becomes President, two-thirds of the Government — the Supreme Court and both branches of Congress. "What are you afraid of?" The gentleman answered, in substance, that they could not endure the disgrace of a Republican in the White House. "Well," replied Douglas, "if the South secedes and takes up arms against the Government, there will then be an end of compromise. "You and your institution will perish together." [Applause.]
My view is this: when Douglas sprang to the assistance of the Administration, and to the defense of the Government, and pledged all this energies to help crush this wicked rebellion, he at the same time pledged every loyal Democrat in the country. [Cheers.] For one, I intend to keep the pledge. [Renewed cheering.]
Mr. Eastman alluded to the action of the majority in the House of Representatives restricting Gen. Jackson and the 8th of Jan. He said that "Old Hickory would not thank them for the compliment. On the contrary, if the ghost of Gen. Jackson could indorse the contrary nation of the so-called Democratic caucus, he would be at this moment in the midst of that conclave to dispute it. [Long continued cheering.] He commented severely upon some of the speeches that have been delivered in the house and out of it, and spoke of the attack on Gov. Yates. The party in the house profess to think his Excellency rather aggressive; and he must acknowledge that he thought so too. The Governor had sent his message into their midst, giving them a regular broadside. Duties on the table; the majority have not yet found the courage to print it. They dare not meet it before the people.
In conclusion he said: When this war shall have ended, which will not be until the rebellion is crushed; when peace shall have returned to rejoice all hearts and to make glad every neighborhood; when the foundations of the Union shall have been repaired and made stronger, and the superstructure renovated — then the history of these days will be written. And the historian will not remember that Gov. Richard Yates has been censured and insulted by this General Assembly. But he will remember, and with record, in words that shall live as long as the language lives, that Gov. Richard Yates raised in less than two years over one hundred thousand men in Illinois: that he equipped, regimented and officered them, and sent them to the field, where they fought with prominent bravery to maintain the Government and the liberties of the people.