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Douglas at Clinton.


Thursday, August 12, 1858.

The reception of Senator Douglas at Clinton, on the 27th ult., was in the highest degree enthusiastic. He spoke for three hours, to an audience of at least 5000 people. In the course of his speech, he denounced the charge which Mr. Lincoln had made against him viz: that he had formed a conspiracy with Presidents Pierce and Buchanan, and the judges of the Supreme Court, for the purpose of nationalizing slavery. Mr. Lincoln was present during the speech, and in his answer in the evening withdrew the charge he had made against Judge Douglas. For the benefit of our republican friends here who may have read and believed Mr. Lincoln's charge, as referred to above, we give the following extract from Judge Douglas' speech:

Mr. Lincoln, in his speech at Springfield, made before my return to the State, accepting the nomination of the Republican convention, went into a long argument to prove that the Judges of the Supreme Court, President Buchanan, President Pierce, and myself, had entered into a conspiracy to pervert and overturn the Constitution of the country, and establish slavery throughout the Republic. I read that speech and replied to it at Chicago, and never noticed the charge. I also replied to it at Bloomington and Springfield, and never noticed the charge. About a week ago, Mr. Lincoln made another speech at Springfield, in which he called my attention to the fact, that he had made such a charge and said that I had never attempted to deny it. I quote from his speech:

"I charged that the people had been deceived into carrying the last Presidential election, by the impression that the people of a Territory might exclude slavery if they choose, when it was known in advance by the conspirator that the count was to decide that neither Congress nor the people could so exclude slavery. These charges are more distinctly made than anything else in the speech.

"Judge Douglas has carefully read and re-read that speech. He has not, so far as I know, contradicted those charges. In the two speeches which I heard he certainly did not. On his own tacit admission I renew that charge. I charge him with having been a party to that conspiracy and to that deception for the sole purpose of nationalizing slavery.

I did not answer his charge for this reason: I did not suppose there was a man in America whose heart was so corrupt as for an instant to believe that such a charge could be true. I did not think that any man in America believed that Chief Justice Taney and his associates on the supreme bench, and two Presidents of the United States, to say nothing of myself, could be guilty of a conspiracy involving such turpitude and such infamy. – I had too much respect for Mr. Lincoln to suppose that he was serious in making the charge. He says now that he did not know that the charge was true when he made it; that he had no personal knowledge of the truth of it. I then ask why make such a charge? – I remind him that there is as much corruption in making a charge without knowing it to be true, as there is in making one and knowing it to be false. It is as dishonest to charge that which you do not know to be true as it is to tell an open lie; and yet, he now confessed that he made that charge against the Judges of the Supreme Court, two Presidents of the United States, and myself, without knowing whether it was true or false. Mr. Lincoln can lay down that rule of action for himself in his conduct toward others which he thinks proper, but I should deem that I had forfeited my character as an honorable man, if I should make a charge against him of moral turpitude, without knowing it was true at the time I made it.

But, I will answer the charge now. He says that he renews it on my own tacit admission. Because I treated it with silent contempt he dared to repeat it. I will now give him an answer, and that will relieve him of the privilege of ever repeating it again. I say to you, and to him, to his friends, and to the whole world, that the charge is false (deafening cheers) in all of its bearings. I say that the charge in all its bearings, specifications and particulars is infamously false, – ("Hit him again;" "Set 'em up again," and renewed applause.) I will go no further. I say here, that up to this day and hour I never exchanged a word with Chief Justice Taney or any one member of the supreme bench about the Dred Scott decision in my life, either before or after it was rendered. I never exchanged a word with President Pierce on the subject, either before or after the decision was rendered, or did I exchange a word with President Buchanan upon it until long after it was made. Hence there is no pretext whatsoever for any such imputation. I will show you that Mr. Lincoln ought to have known that the charge was false when he made it against me, and when he renewed it. And why? He charges in his first speech that this conspiracy began with the Nebraska bill, and that the introduction of that bill was my part in the conspiracy. He ought to have known, as the records of the country prove, that at the time of the passage of the Nebraska bill the Dred Scott case had not yet been taken up to the Supreme Court; it was still pending in the district courts of Missouri. It had been begun by Dred Scott, and we had not possession of him because he was in the hands of his abolition friends. (Laughter.) Mr. Lincoln, as an abolitionist, might have known that if Dred Scott lost his case in the district courts of Missouri, that he intended to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States; but I never did, and had not means of knowing the fact. This case did not go into the Supreme Court until a year after the Nebraska bill passed, and yet Mr. Lincoln charges that that court, two Presidents of the United States, and myself, entered into this corrupt conspiracy in 1854, one year before the Supreme Court had any knowledge of its existence, in order, by the decision in that case and the Nebraska bill, to establish slavery all over the country. President Buchanan is charged as being a party to this conspiracy. Does not Mr. Lincoln know that at the time Mr. Buchanan was not in America, but was in England, representing our country at the Court of St. James, and that he did not know anything about the Nebraska bill until he saw it in the newspapers? And yet, with these facts before him, giving the lie direct to the whole charge, in all its specification, Mr. Lincoln deliberately makes it and renews it not only against me but against those high functionaries. I denounce the charge as it deserves. I omit making a personal application of the denunciation out of respect to myself. I trust that now it is seen that such charges cannot be made with impunity that they will not be renewed. I know how to conduct a political contest on principle.

I understand why Mr. Lincoln brings such charges. His friends tell him that he made a blunder in taking such strong abolition grounds at the outset of the canvass, and that i keep him on the defensive all the time; they say "Lincoln, why don't you attack Douglas?" – "Why," replies Lincoln, "Douglas plants himself on principle, he stands on that ground all the time, and there is no getting at him. – (Laughter and cheers.) What can I attack him on?" (Renewed laughter.) – They reply "Charge him with something!" "What can I charge him with?" asks Lincoln. "Charge him with anything," they answer, "charge him with conspiracy, and keep him on the defensive." (Laughter and applause.) I wish Mr. Lincoln to know that if he resorts to this game after this explanation, that he will get my answer in monosyllables. (Tremendous cheering.) When he makes false charges I will brand them wherever they are made. I have treated him with courtesy in every speech I have made. At Chicago, at Bloomington, and at Springfield I spoke of him in terms of kindness, respect, and friendship. I wish to conduct this canvass without making any personal charges against him, and I will not permit him to manufacture them against me, or impeach the honesty of my motives either. – ("Good, good." "Right," and great applause.)

After disposing of this charge, Mr. Douglas next turned his attention to the charge of Lincoln that he had arraigned the Supreme Court of the United States, because of its decision in the United States Bank case. On this subject Senator Douglas said:

"Mr. Lincoln attempts to justify his warfare against the Supreme Court by charging me with once having done the same thing. Suppose that charge was true, does it justify him? ("No, no.") In making this charge, Mr. Lincoln also began cautiously and got braver as he went along. In Chicago, he said that if he was not mistaken and he did not think he was, he had sometime heard Judge Douglas arraign the Supreme Court of the United States because of its decision on the bank question. Well, at Bloomington and at Springfield, in replying to him I did not notice it; so in his second Springfield speech he says, Judge Douglas, it is well known, did make war upon the Supreme Court because of its decisions in the Bank
[portions of the newspaper are missing]
the charge, but when I did not deny it he got bolder and made it direct. Now I am going to dispose of it in a way that no honest man can ever repeat it. – I say that the man does not live on the face of this earth who can look me in the face and say that he ever heard me assault the Supreme Court of the United States because of its decision in the Bank case or any other. – The charge is not true; Mr. Lincoln never heard me arraign the Supreme Court, and he cannot repeat it without knowing it to be false. I will give you the facts in the case. – General Jackson vetoed the United States Bank. ("That's so," and cheers.) I sustained him in his position on the question. The friends of the Bank used to quote the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to prove the Bank constitutional, and my invariable reply was that I did not care whether the Bank was constitutional or not, I was against it because it was unnecessary and inexpedient; and on that ground I opposed it. I never took issue with the Court upon its decision. There is no honest man can say I did. I was content with that decision as I am content with the Dred Scott decision. I take the decisions of the Supreme Court as they are announced, and I believe it is the duty of every good citizen to abide by those decisions and be governed by them." (Cheers.)