Primary tabs

The Ottawa Debate.


Tuesday August 24, 1858

The Meeting at Ottawa on Saturday last, the scene of the first encounter between Lincoln and Douglas, was, by all accounts, an immense affair. It is asserted that twelve thousand persons were present, from La Salle and all the surrounding counties. Each of the Senatorial candidates was escorted by a procession of friends,—Mr. Lincoln from the railroad depot to the residence of Mayor Glover; Mr. Douglas from Peru to the Geiger House in Ottawa. The meeting was held in the public square. The speeches are reported in full in the Chicago Press and Times of Monday.

Mr. Douglas made the opening speech, an hour in length. After speaking of the national character of the old Whig and Democratic parties, and claiming that the Kansas-Nebraska bill agreed with the principles of the compromises of 1850, which those parties had approved, Mr. D. charged Lincoln and Trumbull with conspiring in 1854 to dissolve those old parties and form a new abolition party which should send them (Lincoln and Trumbull) to the Senate. This new party held a State convention at Springfield in October, 1854, and adopted resolutions, one of which he professed to read, demanding the repeal of the fugitive slave law, the non-admission of any more slave States, the abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia, & c. He wanted to know whether Mr. L. was now in favor of these measures. (These resolutions, the Chicago Press states; were passed at a meeting at Aurora, Kane co., and never were even presented to a Republican State Convention! The Press publishes the true resolutions, as it says, of the Springfield Convention of 1854, which are entirely different!) This was the staple of the Judge's speech, most of the residue being devoted to "uniformity of institutions," "nigger equality," &c., &c.

Mr. Lincoln then spoke for nearly and hour and a half. The "conspiracy" with Trumbull he flatly denied; and only noticed the alleged "resolutions" so far as to say that he had nothing to do with the Convention which passed them. After brushing out of the way one or two other of Mr. Douglas' charges, Mr. Lincoln took up the great point of the plot to nationalize slavery, and drove it home upon Judge Douglas with tremendous force and effect, closing with some brief and telling references to Henry Clay's opposition to the perpetuation of slavery.—- The speech was one of the most powerful and eloquent ever made by Lincoln, and it was most enthusiastically received by the crowd, two thirds of whom were Republicans.

Mr. Douglas responded for half an hour, making no new points of importance.

The Republicans were in ecstacies over the result of the debate, Lincoln was carried off on the shoulders of the crowd, amidst enthusiastic rejoicings. —In the evening, another meeting was held in front of the court house, where Hon. Owen Lovejoy addressed some fifteen hundred people for an hour and a quarter in a scathing exposition of modern Democracy. Lincoln was present. A torch light procession was then formed, and paraded the streets for sometime.

Mr. Douglas returned to Chicago on the first train.