Douglas at Havana.
Tuesday, August 24, 1858.
(Correspondence of the Chicago Press and Tribune.)
HAVANA, Ill., Aug. 13, 1858.
The Pro-Slavery ringleader of the North-West has visited us and made a speech, which has cruelly disappointed his friends, and lost him a hundred votes in Mason County, at the very least. A considerable majority of these new created enemies will vote the Republican ticket this fall – the balance have slumped over to Buchanan and the National Democracy. My candid opinion is that Mr. Douglas can do nothing so certain to elect Abe Lincoln to the Senate, as to deliver the speech which he gave us to day, in every county seat in the State. If I might prescribe a judicious course for the Little Giant, for the balance of the campaign, I should just tell him to be sick – I should recommend him to have the National Hotel disease, or some other convenient malady, and be at the point of death every Tuesday and Friday till November. I shall not sue him for the value of this advice. I give it to him freely unconditionally , affectionately. I have no idea he will profit by it, but if he persists in his insane policy of making speeches to the people, and thereby drives himself into obscurity, let him not charge me with maliciously omitting to give him the right sort of counsel at the right time.
It would be difficult for me to give an adequate idea of the littleness, meanness and foulness of Douglas' harrangue here to-day. It was the universal remark that Murray McConnell must have written the speech. You have heard of Murray, of course. He is the great blackguard of Illinois – the old original Jacob in the dialect of fishwomen. He has blackguarded all over Mason County a thousand times; consequently when we want to say that anybody has especially disgraced himself in a public speech, we say that he has played Murray McConnell. Douglas has played McConnell, to-day, the way Hamlet's players out-Heroded Herod. For instance, he called Lincoln a liar, a coward (!) a wretch and a sneak, and he called Trumbull a sneak, a wretch and a coward and a liar. Murray would have used less than half these epithets. He (Douglas) returned to his vomit half a dozen times with a new volley of bar-room phrases to Lincoln and Trumbull. The only solution of his extraordinary conduct given by his friends would not be creditable to a reputation for sobriety. A considerable number of Old Line Whigs whom I have met to-day have said they were disposed to think favorably of Mr. Douglas, but they never did and never would vote for a Short-Boy.
A curious and unexpected feature of Douglas' speech to-day is that he had spent almost the whole of his time in defending himself – Starting out with the declaration that he should not allow himself to be drawn from the real issues of the campaign, viz: negro equality and amalgamation, to defend himself against the assaults of his enemies – he immediately went to chewing on Lincoln's speech before the Republican State Convention, and he chewed on it for a whole hour, like a criminal under an indictment. Then he strove to set up a defence against Trumbull's charge of his complicity in an attempt to have a constitution framed for Kansas, in 1856, without being submitted to the people. The chief point in his defense here, it must be admitted, was his calling Senator T. a liar and a wretch and a vagabond, and applying to him all the other choice resources of the Douglas vocabulary.
In the "attacking" part of the speech I heard nothing but negro equality and amalgamation – amalgamation and negro equality – with a slight tineture of blackguardism against the Declaration of Independence. These themes he pursued till his audience was wholly nauseated. During this section of the harrangues an old Democrat came up to me and asked what I thought of the speech? "Superlative nonsense and Dead Rabbitism," I replied. "Give me your hand on that, old boy," was the rejoinder; "a man who can stand there and argue an hour against things that nobody ever advocated, don't get my vote, if his name is Douglas."
Among other things he endorsed the Dred Scott decision up to the hub. He had not much to say about Popular Sovereignty, however – which was discreet, under the circumstances. He made an hysterical effort to be grieved at the death of Henry Clay – a man whom he villified like a pick-pocket while living – a man who, if living when the Nebraska bill was introduced, would have riddled that villainy from top to bottom, and buried the author of it under a mountain of popular indignation.
I cannot conclude without giving an item showing how the Douglas men have regarded the Douglas speech to-day. It has been arranged that a Fulton County lawyer – Lewis Ross, Esq. – should follow Douglas with a thorough-bred Lecompton speech of his own. Mr. Ross was to occupy half an hour. Well, Douglas finished at half-past three and Mr. Ross did not appear. The reason why he did not has been forced out of the Committee of Arrangements. It was that Ross would have made a speech so much better than Douglas did, that it was not safe to risk the contrast. – The inference is a legitimate one, that if Ross does not deliver himself of his speech, the Democracy of this region will run him for the Senate in place of Douglas. The best part of the joke is that Ross has now determined to in the Buchaneers.
The audience to-day might have numbered 1,500 at a liberal estimate including women and children – and I know that one-half of them were staunch Republicans. When the whistle of the steamer Editor, bringing Lincoln to town, was heard, nearly one-half of the crowd broke away and ran to the levee. When Douglas had finished, there was a dead silence for almost two minutes, when a man with a mottled face came forward and proposed three cheers for Stephen A. Douglas. They were responded to by about thirty men near the platform. And so ended one of the rankest humbugs that ever visited the old County of Mason.