The Freeport Discussion.
Thursday, September 2, 1858.
Last Friday, at Freeport, was a grand day for the Republicans of Illinois; and one too that no one who at all loves those principles for which we contend, need be at all ashamed. These discussions are looked upon by not only the people of Illinois with intense interest, but the whole Union's political eye is now directed to our State. Douglas and Lincoln's speeches are copied in the papers of New York and other eastern cities and re-printed and circulated by Republicans, for they believe that their principles will stand the crucible or test which may be given them by all the Democratic orators from Maine to Texas.
One of the largest gatherings which was ever held in the State assembled at Freeport to hear the champions of the two great parties. The concourse can be imagined when we state that nine crowded passenger cars passed up on the Central; and sixteen on the Galena and Chicago railroad. The assemblage was variously estimated from eight to twelve thousand. This discussion was arranged so that Lincoln lead off in a speech of an hour in length and Douglas replied in an answer of an hour and a half, then the former closed, occupying thirty minutes. Mr. Lincoln effectually answered the interrogatories put to him at Ottawa by Mr. Douglas. Those questions, on which the Little Giant boasted he would "trot" Abe down into Egypt, were answered in a manner which showed that Lincoln now stands on the same platform which Clay, Jefferson, Jay, Webster, and the founders of our government, stood. He did not wish to interfere with slavery in the states but protected against its farther extension.
Then Mr. Lincoln put a few questions to his opponent which caused the Little Giant to turn another complete political summerset. The question whether Douglas would acquiesce in a decision of the supreme court that by virtue of the Constitution slavery existed in the states as well as territories, and could not, therefore, be abolished by the people? That was a clincher for Mr. Douglas and he could not answer it with a plain yes or no; but evaded the interrogatory by saying that such a decision from the Supreme Court of the United States was impossible! That is decidedly cool in Senator Douglas when he knows that such a doctrine has been advanced by the very fountain of Democracy, the administration, thorough its organ, the Washington Union.
When asked if the people of a territory could exclude slavery before forming a state constitution, Douglas answered that the people had that power; and thereby repudiated his former acquiescence (see Chicago speech) in the Dred Scot decision. When a man who has the name of being a statesman dodges about in this manner how are we to know where to find him?
After Mr. Douglas had finished, Mr. Lincoln occupied his half hour in most effectually clinching his main speech. We do not remember of hearing the sophistry and mis-statements of a speaker more fully and clearly spread out before an audience than did Lincoln show up those of Douglas in his rejoinder. – His sarcasm was, in the half hour that we heard him, exceedingly fine and polished, though severe.
We could but notice the marked difference between the two speakers on this question; and it was noticed by even the Democracy. Douglas was coarse, blustering and insulting in his language
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After the discussion had closed, the vast assemblage gathered in front of the Brewaler House, where they listened to one of the ablest impromptu speeches we ever heard, by Mr. Lovejoy; a synopsis of which we may give next week.