A Mighty Man of Valor.
August 2, 1858.
From the Chicago Press and Tribune.
The friends of Douglas are wont to extol his courage, yet a more arrant coward never crossed sword or dealt a thrust. He is courageous at a distance. When the contest becomes close he is like the lame captain who, seeing defeat to be inevitable, ordered his men to stand their ground as long as they could, but inasmuch as he was lame he would go then. Like the Russians in Sebastopol, he pops away with great spirit while the contest is at long shot, but when the Redan and Mamelon of his positions are assailed and the fight is a hand-to-hand one, he suddenly discovers that he is in the hands of the Democratic State Committee, and that they have arranged for him to be in some other place just at that time.
But if courage has deserted Douglas, cunning has not. If he dare not go before the people with Lincoln he may at least put his refusal to do so on some other ground than want of courage. It is possible for even the veriest poltroon to quibble. There is no law against getting out of an ugly scrape with a whole skin, if a man is able to do it. The Supreme court has not yet decided that a Democrat is bound to stand up and be riddled from the crown of his head to the soles of feet, simply because a "Black" Republican invites him to that kind of sport. There is ample verge for a quibble without endangering the Union or damaging the Constitution; and so . Douglas notifies . Lincoln that he is in the hands of a committee who object to the proposed arrangement.
If we remember rightly, in 1848 . Douglas was very severe upon Gen. Harrison, then in candidate for the Presidency, for putting himself into the hands of a committee. He was wont to describe that venerable man and distinguished soldier under the simile of a menagerie animal, confined in an iron cage, and exhibited around the country whenever and wherever his keepers thought proper. Is it possible that the Judge feel so desperately in love with the picture, that he now voluntarily gives himself up to be the chief figure in its second production? Or is this sinking of the will and personality of Judge Douglas into a committee an afterthought designed to extricate him from the dilemma in which the challenge of . Lincoln placed him? This is the more likely hypothesis; and it is strengthened by the fact that the appointments for Douglas are not made by the committee officially, but by himself through his newspaper organs, in the usual form adopted by candidates when entering upon a canvass.
But suppose Lincoln's challenge had reached Douglas before the committee had muzzled and caged him; would it have been accepted? Not at all. Douglas would in that case have replied, "Wait until I can have an interview with my committee. I have been out of the State since November, and know not what arrangements my friends have made for me. I regret that you are so precipitate in this matter. Wait. There is time enough yet"
The fact is, Douglas never intended to make the canvass in company with Lincoln. A peddler of imitation wares never travels in company with a vender of the genuine article. Douglas will take his sophistries and misrepresentations where they will not be scrutinized too closely or be made to suffer by contrast with solid argument and with the facts of history. Let the menagerie move on.