The Discussion at Freeport. Synopsis of the Speeches.
Tuesday, September 7, 1858.
We have not room to give the full report of the Speeches of Messrs. LINCOLN and DOUGLAS at Freeport, but the following synopsis which we find in the Rock Island Advertiser, will give the reader a good idea of the speech on themselves. According to previous arrangement, LINCOLN opens the Debate:
I propose to devote my first hour to the matter of Judge Douglas' closing speech at Ottawa. In the course of his first speech, he asked me seven questions. In my reply I incidentally answered one of them, and offered to answer the others if he would answer as many for me. He did not assent to that proposition, yet he dealt with me as if I had refused unconditionally. I now repeat the proposition, and pause a moment to hear the Judge's reply. Well, he says nothing, and I may therefore assume that he intends to remain silent. But I will answer his interrogatories at any rate, and then propound my own. I have no secret pledges. I have supposed myself bound by the platform of the Republican party since 1855, but in answering these questions I must go outside and beyond it. I shall not, however, say anything in conflict with that platform:
1. "I desire to know whether Lincoln today stands, as he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the fugitive slave law?"
Ans. I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the fugitive slave law.
2. "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?"
Ans. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more slave States into the Union.
3. "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?"
Ans. I do not stand 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.
4. "I want to know whether he stands pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia?"
Ans. I do not stand pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.
5. "I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the prohibition of the slave trade between the different States?"
Ans. I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the slave trade between the different States.
6. "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?"
Ans. I am impliedly if not expressly pledged to a belief in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States Territories.
7. "I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to the acquisition of any new Territory unless slavery is first prohibited therein?"
Ans. I am not generally opposed to honest acquisitions of Territory; and in any given case, I would or would not oppose such acquisition, accordingly as I might think it would or would not aggravate the slavery question among ourselves.
I have only said I was not pledged to those measures. This is all the Judge has asked me. But I will take up some of them and tell what I think about them. In regard to the fugitive slave law, I will say I think there ought to be one. I think a law might be framed on that subject which would be free from the objections which lie against the existing law. But I would not bring this matter up as a new subject of legislation. The South is satisfied at present with having a law on the statue books, though it is practically inoperative; the North too acquiesces simply because the law is practically void. I would not disturb this quiet. I should be sorry to have to vote on the admission of a slave State. I hope there will never be any necessity for my doing so. If slavery is kept out of the Territories I think such necessity would never arise. But, if the people of a new State ever do adopt a pro-slavery Constitution, after being kept free from it while in Territorial condition, then I should vote for their admission under such constitution. The third question is answered fully by the answer of the second. The fourth is about slavery in the District of Columbia. I should like to see it abolished there. I think Congress has the power to abolish it. Yet if in Congress I should say the abolition must be gradual, and with the consent of the people there, and also that they must receive compensation, I have not given the fifth question sufficient examination to venture an opinion by which I should wish to be bound. If upon consideration I should think that Congress had power to prohibit the inter-State slave trade, I should still be guided in the matter by expediency. I have already made the same remark in regard to the seventh question. I suppose the Judge thought I would not dare utter my real sentiments every where. But this is the worst place in the whole State for me to express them, and I do it without hesitation.
I will now propound to him my interrogatories, so far as I have framed them, and will bring in another installment at some future time.
1. If the people of Kansas shall, by means entirely unobjectionable, adopt a State Constitution and ask admission into the Union under it, before they have the requisite number of inhabitants according to the English Bill – to wit 93,000 – will you vote to admit them?
2. Can the people of a United States Territory in any legal way, against the will of one citizen, exclude slavery from their limits, previous to the formation of a State Constitution?
3. If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that the States cannot exclude slavery from their limits, are you in favor of acquiescing in, adopting and following such a decision as a rule of political action?
4. Are you in favor of acquiring additional Territory in disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the slavery question?
Preparatory to his questions he introduced certain resolutions which he said Trumbull and myself made at Springfield in 1854, and held that those resolutions were the platform of the Republican party. But it turns out that they were never passed in the Convention at Springfield, that I had nothing to do with them, and finally that there was no Republican State convention held in Springfield in 1854. There was a "Peoples' Convention" held there but I knew so little about it as not to dispute the Judge when he substituted other resolutions for those passed by it. Yet I am as responsible for the Kane County resolutions as I am for those of the Springfield Convention, the responsibility being either case just nothing at all. It is extraordinary that a man like Judge Douglas should commit such a fraud. I ask you whether he has justification like this for calling me a liar? I have stated it as my belief that there was a conspiracy to make slavery perpetual and national. I have arrayed the evidence which led me to this belief, but I never implicated Judge Douglas' moral character. I did not know but he was conscientious in that conspiracy. He holds that the Union cannot stand if the States all abolish slavery, and I can therefore conceive that he is entirely conscientious in desiring to perpetuate the institution.
The Kansas-Nebraska bill professes to give the people of the Territories full power over the subject of slavery. But when Senator Chase, in order to test the sincerity of this profession, proposed an amendment expressly authorizing the people to exclude slavery, Judge Douglas and his friends voted it down. If there was a conspiracy to extend slavery it would not have done to have passed that amendment. It would have cut off the Dred Scott decision. I think that is the reason why it was voted down. Judge Douglas said at Ottawa, that Gen. Cass proposed to Chase to alter this amendment, so as to give the people power either to exclude or introduce slavery, which he refused to do. But why did not Gen. Cass offer this as an amendment himself? If they wanted the thing in this shape, why did they not make it so? They had power to do it, but they chose to quibble with Chase, asking him to do what they knew he would not do, merely as a pretext for voting down the amendment.
He speaks of the impudence of Lincoln in charging a conspiracy on the President and the Supreme Court upon his own ipse dixit, – I have not done so. I have presented the evidence, leaving you to judge of the fact. I have not put it upon my own ipse dixit. He has done the very same thing himself. Let him give some attention to his own charge of a "fatal blow being struck against the sovereignty of the states of the Union." He arrays evidence to prove a charge identical with this which I make against him.
Mr. Lincoln's hour having expired, Mr. Douglas arose and addressed the people, in substance, as follows:
I am glad that Lincoln has concluded to define his position. I did not propose idle questions. I laid the foundation of those questions by saying they were the platform of his party. I desired to know, as had been nominated, whether he concurred with his party in its platform. Before noticing his replies, I will relieve his anxiety by answering the interrogatories he as addressed to me.
1st. He wants to know whether I would vote to admit Kansas with her present population? I regret that he did not express his own opinion on this subject. Trumbull voted against the admission of Oregon on this very ground. He would not consent to the admission of any State without a population of 93,000. It is my own opinion, that whenever Kansas has people enough for a slave State, she has enough for a free State. I offered a bill, that no new State should be admitted without a population of 93,000. Congress did not adopt that general rule, but made an exception against Kansas. I say that Kansas must either come in with her present population or the rule must be made general. I want to know Lincoln's position on this subject.
2nd. Can the people exclude slavery before becoming a State? I think they can? Lincoln knows I have said so over and over again. Slavery cannot exist without municipal laws to regulate it. Such laws can only be made by the Legislature, and the people can control the matter by electing a Legislature to suit them. I thought Lincoln would have known more than to say any thing more about Chase's amendment. Under the Kansas-Nebraska bill the people of the Territories had all the power that Congress could give. They had full power, negative and affirmative, so that they did not break the Constitution. What more could Congress do? Chase offered his amendment, as himself avowed, to make capital on the stump.
3rd. If the Supreme Court shall decide that a State cannot exclude slavery, will I support the decision? I am astonished! The Washington Union put forth this doctrine last winter, I was the first to denouce it. Your Black Republican Senators sat still and said nothing. Then Toombs read me a lecture, saying that nobody south of the Potomac believed that doctrine. Lincoln might as well ask me, should he steal a horse would I approve the theft. The thing is utterly preposterous. I tell him such a decision would be treasonable.
4th. Am I in favor of acquiring territory without regard to the effect such acquisition would have on slavery among ourselves? I asked him the same question, and instead of answering it, he turns Yankee. I will say, that I am in favor of acquiring whatever Territory we need, and then of leaving the people thereof perfectly free to regulate their domestic institutions in their own way. We have already territory enough for own wants; but this is a young nation. According to our present ratio of increase, we shall occupy the whole of our Territory to the Pacific in less than fifteen years. After that, we must have more. A man might as well tell his twelve year old son not to grow any more, as to try to prevent this country from expanding. There is a torrent of foreign emigration pouring into the land, which, with our natural increase, requires continually more territory. I am in favor of getting all we want, and as fast as we want it, on this continent and in the seas around it, and of leaving the people free to choose their domestic institutions for themselves.
I hope Mr. Lincoln is satisfied on these points, and I have a word or two to say on his answers to my interrogatories.
He makes a great ado over my mistake between Aurora and Springfield, but all I shall say that if I was mistaken, he was also. It is no matter where or when those resolutions were passed. They were adopted in various counties and towns, and may rightfully be considered the platform of the Republican party in 1854. I will read a resolution adopted at Rockford when Washburne was nominated. – [Judge Douglas here read the same resolution which we copied in our report of his Ottawa speech.] Now Lincoln complains that I call this your platform, and yet you cheer every part of it. I am glad you are more honest than your leaders in avowing your principles. But you resolved also not to support a man for office who did not stand upon this platform. What, then, do you think of Lincoln after what you have heard from him to-day? I call your attention to the action of your representatives in the Legislature at that time. – The old Whig party was to be destroyed and the old Democratic party annihilated to make room for the new party. Lincoln and Trumbull were the leaders in that proceeding, with Giddings, Fred Douglass, and Lovejoy to receive and christen the new converts. Till '54, the Whigs and Democrats stood on a common platform as to slavery, and that platform was the compromise of '50. Lincoln was aided in his part of the task by Washburne, your own Representative in Congress, Trumbull was assisted by Wentworth and Turner, the same Turner who wrote this Rockford resolution and who says to me that he approves it now. Lincoln does not approve it, and hopes he will not be called on to decide some of the questions involved in it. I hope he will not be compelled to do so; I do not think he will. – When the Legislature met, there was to be a U. S. Senator elected, and the Republicans or Abolitionists in the lower House, passed a set of resolutions similar to those adopted by their Convention at Rockford, Aurora, &c., to guide them in their choice. These resolutions were introduced by Lovejoy just before the vote was taken for Senator. It was a strict party vote between the Democrats and the Republicans, and every man who voted for them, with two exceptions, voted for Lincoln the next day. Those men were pledged not to support any man who did not support this Rockford platform. Either Lincoln was pledged to these propositions or your representatives violated their pledges.
Lincoln says he is not pledged to the repeal of the fugitive slave law. Yes he does not like it, thinks it should be changed, but would not bring in a bill to change it, &c. Well, this is rather an equivocal way of explaining himself.
In regard to more slave States, he hopes he will not be put in a position where he will have to decide that question. I hope so too. Don't impose this burden upon him against his will. When he was nominated, however, he made a speech in which he lays down that this nation cannot stand half slave and half free, as our fathers made it. The conclusion from this speech is that he is opposed to more slave States; for if he believes the States must all be free or all slave in order to save the Union, and if he prefers freedom to slavery, he must oppose the admission of new slave States. Let him stand up to his principles as I do. I have been put to severe tests. I have defended my principles when Northern sentiment ran in a torrent against me, and when Southern sentiment threatened to overwhelm me. I knew the God of Heaven would smile upon me I stood by them.
Suppose I did make a true charge, against the Washington Union, does that justify Lincoln in making a false charge against me? He knows his charge as against Buchanan is unfounded, Buchanan was in England at the time when he supposes this conspiracy was set on foot. At the introduction of the Nebraska bill, the Dred Scott case had not been decided and there could have been no complicity between the supporters of that bill and the Supreme Court. As for myself, I pronounce the charge an infamous lie. I am willing he should criticise my public life, but when he accuses me of corrupt conspiracy, I characterize it as it deserves. He says I have made a similar charge. Is Lincoln, then, in league with the Administration, and is it his business to defend the President? This proves the alliance between the Republicans and the Administration to break me down. I made that charge against the Union alone. When I have anything to say to the Administration, I will speak it in such a way that all may understand me.
After Mr. Douglas's reply Mr. Lincoln made his rejoinder as follows:
One half of his speech is about resolutions passed here and there, which he says are opposed to my positions. I think they are in some respects opposed to me. But if the Judge can find any member of the Legislature who has received pledges from me inconsistent with my position now I will withdraw from the canvass and give him no further trouble. In '54, we who now compose the Republican party did not agree with one another. These resolutions which he has read were local. In other parts of the State other and different resolutions were passed. But at length we all met together and adopted a common platform. – You of the northern districts yielded your extreme views for the sake of union with us of the central and southern districts. I suppose we are all alike bound by the platform adopted at Bloomington. Is the Judge apprehensive that I will vote for principles at Washington not expressed in that platform? I will not. If my opinions are less in accordance with your own than Judge Douglas's, vote for him instead of me. His object is to divide the Republican party and drive you away from me.
The Judge complains that my answers are equivocal, then it is because I do not know how to speak plainly. I said that if a new State, after tutelage in freedom as a Territory, should form a pro-slavery Constitution, we would have to admit her under it. When he says I must oppose her admission in order to save the Union, he is mistaken. I do not believe the admission of new slave states would necessarily make the institution perpetual in this country. His questions have been answered more fully than mine.
He says he made a charge against the Union of striking a blow at the sovereignty of the State. I undertake to say that the charge was not made against the Union alone. I am not defending the Administration against the charge; I am making Douglas a witness against his own party. I wish you to get his speech of March 22, 1858; in it you will find that he says the Union speaks authoritatively. By whose authority did he mean? The Union was the organ of the Administration. Its publisher, Mr. Wendell, had been elected public printer in spite of the opposition of Judge Douglas, and that paper was understood on all hands to be the mouthpiece of the Administration. I defy him to say whom he alluded to by the word authoritatively, other than the President. It would have been a terrible blow if nobody had been engaged in striking it but the contemptible editor of this paper, as the Judge calls him. I would appeal to a jury on this matter. The truth is, that Douglas was looking Northward when he made that speech on the 22d of March last, and was figuring for a re-election to the Senate. Now he wished to crawl back among his Democratic friends again, and therefore pretends that he made his charge against the Union, and not against the President and the Cabinet.