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Abraham Lincoln


Sept. 29, 1858

"Our first, last, and only, choice for Senator," got so much the best of the debate, at Charleston, Coles County, on the 18th, that Douglas' friends are ashamed of their idol. Douglas' speech was the same he delivered on Elmer's Hill. His friends will therefore excuse us for not printing it. The following gives the substance of Lincoln's closing speech, which in our judgement finishes the little giant.

Mr. Lincoln began as follows:
Judge Douglas has said to you that he has not been able to get from me an answer to the question whether I am in favor of negro citizenship. So far as I know, the Judge never asked me the question before. [Applause.] He shall have no occasion to ever ask it again, for I tell him very frankly that I am not in favor of negro citizenship. [Renewed applause.] This furnishes me an occasion for saying a few words upon the subject. I mentioned in a certain speech of mine which has been printed, that the Supreme Court had decided that a negro could not possibly be made a citizen, and without saying what was my ground of complaint in regard to that, or whether I had any ground of complaint, Judge Douglas has from that thing manufactured nearly every thing that he ever says about my disposition to produce an equality between the negroes and white people. [Laughter and applause.] If any one will read my speech, he will find I mentioned that as one of the points decided in the course of the Supreme Court opinions, but I did not state what objection I had to it. But Judge Douglas tells the people what my objection was when I did not tell them myself. [Loud applause and laughter.] Now my own opinion is that the different States have the power to make a negro a citizen under the Constitution of United States if they choose. The Dred Scott decision decides that they have not that power. It the State of Illinois had that power I should be opposed to the exercise of it—[Cries of "good," "good," and applause.] That is all I have to say about it.

Judge Douglas has told you that he heard my speeches South—that he had heard me at Ottawa and at Freeport in the North, and recently at Jonesboro in the South, and there was a very different cast of sentiment in the speeches made at different points. I will not charge upon Judge Douglas that he wilfully misrepresented me, but I call upon every fair-minded man to take these speeches and read them, and I dare him to point out any difference between my printed speeches North and South. [Great cheering.]

He then takes up that portion of Douglas' speech in reference to his having said that he entertained the belief that this government would not endure, half slave and half free.

The remaining portion of Mr. Lincoln's speech, is altogether too admirable in matter and spirit, to curtail one particle, and we present it in full as follows:
Now, in regard to this matter about Trumbull and myself having made a bargain to sell out the entire Whig and Democratic parties in 1854, Judge Douglas brings forward no evidence to sustain his charges, except the speech Matheny had made in 1856, in which he told a cock-and-bull story of that sort, upon the same moral principles that Judge Douglas tells it here to-day. [Loud applause.] This is the simple truth. I do not care greatly for the story, but this is the truth of it, and I have twice told Judge Douglas to his face that from beginning to end there is not one word of truth in it. [Thunders of applause.] I have called upon him for the proof, and he does not at all meet me as Trumbull met him upon that of which we were just talking, by producing the record. He didn't bring the record, because there was no record for him to bring. [Cheers and laughter.] When he asks if I am ready to endorse Trumbull's veracity after he has broken a bargain with me, I reply that if Trumbull had broken a bargain with me, I would not be likely to endorse his veracity; [laughter and applause;] but I am ready to endorse his veracity because neither in that thing, nor in any other, in all the years that I have known Lyman Trumbull, have I known him to fail of his word or tell a falsehood large or small. [Great cheering.] It is for that reason that I endorse Lyman Trumbull.

Mr. JAMES BROWN, (Douglas postmaster.)—What does Ford's History say about him?

Mr. Lincoln some gentlemen asks me what Ford's History says about him. My own recollection is, that Ford speaks of Trumbull in very disrespectful terms in several portions of his book, and that he talks a great deal worse about Judge Douglas. [Roars of laughter and applause.] I refer you sir, to the history for examination. [Cheers.]

Judge Douglas complains, at considerable length, about a disposition on the part of Trumbull and myself to attack him personally. I want to attend to that suggestion a moment. I don't want to be unjustly accused of dealing illiberally or unfairly with an adversary, either in court, or in a political canvass or anywhere else. I would despise myself if I supposed myself ready to deal less liberally with an adversary that I was disposed to be treated myself. Judge Douglas in a general way, revives the old charge against me, without putting it in a direct shape, in reference to the Mexican war. He does not take the responsibility of putting it in a definite form, but makes a general reference to it. That charge is not more than ten years old. He knows, too, that in regard to the Mexican war story, the most respectable papers of his own party through out the State have been compelled to take it back and acknowledge that it was a lie. [Continued and vociferous applause.]

Here Mr. Lincoln turned to the crowd on the platform, and selecting Hon. Orlando B. Ficklin, led him forward and said:
I do not mean to do anything with Mr. Ficklin except to present his face, and tell you that he personally knows that is a lie. He was a member of Congress at the only time I was in Congress, and he (Ficklin) knows that whenever there was an attempt to procure a vote of mine which would endorse the origin and justice of the war, I refused to give such endorsement, and voted against it; but I never voted against the supplies for the army, and he knows, as well as Judge Douglas, that whenever a dollar was asked by way of compensation or otherwise, for the benefit of the soldiers, I gave all the votes that Ficklin or Douglas did, and perhaps more. [Loud applause.]

Mr. Ficklin—My friends, I wish to say this in reference to the matter. Mr. Lincoln and myself are just as good personal friends as Judge Douglas and myself. In reference to the Mexican war, my recollection is that when the Ashmun resolution (amendment) was offered by Mr. Ashmun of Massachusetts, in which he declared that the Mexican war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President—my recollection is that Mr. Lincoln voted for that resolution.

Mr. Lincoln—That is the truth.—Now you all remember that was a resolution censuring the President for the manner in which the war begun. You know they have charged that I voted against the supplies, by which I starved the soldiers who were out fighting the battles of their country. I say that Ficklin knows it is false. When that charge was brought forward by the Chicago Times the Springfield Register [Douglas Organ] reminded the Times that the charge really applied to John Henry; and I do not know but that John Henry is now making speeches and fiercely battling for Judge Douglas. [Loud applause.] If the Judge now says that he offers this as a sort of set-off to what I said to-day in reference to Trumbull's charge, then I remind him that he made this charge before I said a word about Trumbull's. He brought this forward at Ottawa, the first time we meet face to face; and in the opening speech that Judge Douglas made, he attacked me in regard to a matter ten years old. Isn't he a pretty man to be whining about people making charges against him only two years old.—[Cheers.]

The Judge thinks it altogether wrong that I should have dwelt upon this charge of Trumbull's at all. I gave the apology for doing so in my opening speech. Perhaps it didn't fix your attention. I said that when Judge Douglas was speaking at places where I spoke on the succeeding day, he used very harsh language about this charge. Two or three times afterwards I said I had confidence in Judge Trumbull's veracity and intelligence; and my own opinion was, from what I knew of the character of Judge Trumbull, that he would vindicate his position, and prove whatever he had stated, to be true. This I repeated two or three times, and then I dropped it, without saying anything more on the subject for weeks—perhaps a month. I passed it by with out noticing it at all, till I found at Jacksonville, Judge Douglas, in the plentitude of his power, is not willing to answer Trumbull and let me alone; but he comes out there and uses this language: "He should not hereafter occupy his time in refuting such charges made by Trumbull, but that Lincoln, having indorsed the character of Trumbull for veracity, he should hold him (Lincoln) responsible for the slanders." What was Lincoln to do? [Laughter.] Did he not do right, when he had the fit opportunity of meeting Judge Douglas here, to tell him he was ready for the responsibility? [Enthusiastic cheering, good, good. Hurrah for Lincoln!] I ask a candid audience whether in doing thus Judge Douglas was not the assailant rather than I? (Yes, Yes. Hit him again!) Here I meet him face to face and say I am ready to take the responsibility so far as it rests upon me.

Having done so, I ask the attention of this audience to the question whether I have succeeded in sustaining the charge; [yes, yes;]; and whether Judge Douglas has at all succeeded in rebutting it. [Loud cries of "No, no."]—You all heard me call upon him to say which of these pieces of evidence was a forgery? Does he say what I present here as a copy of the original Toombs bill is a forgery? ["No, no."] Does he say that what I present as a copy of the bill reported by himself is a forgery? ["No, no, no."] Or what is presented as a transcript from the Globe, of the quotations from Bigler's speech is a forgery? [No, no, no.] Does he say the quotations from his own speech are forgeries? ["No, no, no."] Does he say this transcript from Trumbull's speech is a forgery? [Loud cries of "No, no." "He didn't deny one of them."] I would then like to know how it comes about, that when each piece of a story is true, the whole story turns out false? [Great cheers and laughter.] I take it these people have some sense; they see plainly that Judge Douglas is playing cuttlefish, (Laughter), a small species of fish that has no way of defending itself when pursued, except by throwing out a black fluid, which makes the water so dark the enemy cannot see it, and thus it escapes. (Roars of laughter.) Ain't the Judge playing the cuttlefish? ["Yes, yes" and cheers.]

Now I would ask very special attention to the consideration of Judge Douglas' speech at Jacksonville; and when you shall read his speech of to-day, I ask you to watch closely and see which of these pieces of testimony, every one of which he says a forgery, he has shown to be such. Not one of them has he shown to be a forgery.—Then I ask the original question, if each of the pieces of testimony is true, how is it possible that the whole is a falsehood? [Loud and continued cheers.]

In regard to Trumbull's charge that he (Douglas) inserted a provision into the bill to prevent the Constitution being submitted to the people, what is his answer? He comes here and reads from the Congressional Globe to show that on his motion that provision was struck out of the bill. Why, Trumbull has not said it was not stricken out, but Trumbull says he (Douglas) put it in, and it in no answer to the charge to say he afterwards took it out. Both are perhaps true. It was in regard to that thing precisely that I told him he had dropped the cub. (Roars of laughter.) Trumbull shows you that by his introducing the bill, it was his cub. (Laughter.) It is no answer to that assertion to call Trumbull a liar merely because he did not specially say Douglas struck it out. Suppose that were the case, does it answer Trumbull? [No, no.] I assert that you (pointing to an individual) are here to-day, and you undertake to prove me a liar by showing that you are in Mattoon yesterday. (Laughter.) I say that you took your hat off your head, and you prove me a liar by putting it on your head. (Roars of laughter). That is the whole force of Douglas' argument.

Now, I want to come back to my original question. Trumbull says that Judge Douglas had a bill with provision in it for substituting a Constitution to be made to a vote of the people of Kansas. Does Judge Douglas deny that fact? [Cries of "no, no."]—Does he deny that the provision which Trumbull reads was put in the bill? ["No, no."] Then Trumbull says he struck it out. Does he dare to deny that? ["No, no."] He does not and I have a right to repeat the question—why Judge Douglas took it out? Bigler has said there was a combination of certain Senators, among whom he did not include Judge Douglas, by which it was agreed that the Kansas bill should have a clause in it not to, have the Constitution formed under it submitted to a vote of the people. He did not say that Douglas was among them, but we prove from another source that about the same time Douglas comes into the Senate with that provision stricken out of the bill. Although Bigler cannot say they were all working in concert, yet it looks very much as if the thing was agreed upon and done with a mutual understanding after the conference; and while we do not know that it was absolutely so, yet it looks so probable that we have a right to call upon the man who knows the true reason why it was done, to tell what the true reason was. (Great cheers.) When he will not tell what the true reason was, he stands in the attitude of an accused thief who has stolen goods in his possession, and when called to account, refuses to tell where he got them. Not only is this the evidence, but when he comes in with the bill having the provision stricken out, he tells us in a speech, not then but since, that these alterations and modifications in the bill had been made by HIM, in a consultation with Toombs, the originator of the bill. He tells us the same to-day. He says there were certain modifications made in the bill in committee that he did not vote for. I ask you to remember while certain amendments were made which he disproved of, but with a majority of the committee voted in, he has himself told us that in this particular the alterations and modifications were made by him upon consultation with Toombs. We have his own word that the alterations were made by him, and not by the committee. ("That's so," "good, good.") Now I ask what is the reason that Judge Douglas is so chary about coming to the exact question? What is the reason he will not tell anything about how it was made, by whom it was made, or that he remembers it being made at all? Why does he stand playing upon the meaning of words, and quibbling around the edges of evidence? If he can explain all this, but leaves it unexplained, I have a right to infer that Judge Douglas understood it was the purpose of his party, in engineering that bill through, to make a constitution, without its being submitted to a vote of the people. ["That's it."] If he will explain his action on this question, by giving a better reason for the facts that happened, than he has done, it will be satisfactory. But until he does that—until he gives a better or more plausible reason than he has offered against the evidence in the case—I suggest to him it will not avail him at all that he swells himself up, takes on dignity, and calls peoples liars. (Great applause and laughter.) Why, sir, there is not a word in Trumbull's speech that depends on Trumbull's veracity at all. He has only arrayed the evidence, and told you what follows as a matter of reasoning. There is not a statement in the whole speech that depends on Trumbull's word. If you have ever studied geometry, you remember that by a course of reasoning Euclid proves that all the angles in a triangle are equal to two right angles. Euclid had shown you how to work it out. Now, if you undertake to disprove that proposition, and to show that it is erroneous, would you prove it to be false by calling Euclid a liar? (Roars of laughter and enthusiastic cheers.) They tell me that my time is out, and therefore I close.