Bear in Mind the True Issue.
September 17, 1858.
The great political battle which is now progressing in this state, in which the principle of popular sovereignty, as opposed to congressional intervention, is in issue, is exciting a thrilling interest thro'out the entire country. It is a renewal in Illinois of the battle of 1856 and 1850. National principles then triumphed over sectionalism, but the advocates of slavery agitation have again returned to the charge. Their success or defeat will have an important bearing upon the future interests of the country. When this same question threatened to dissolve this government in 1850, Mr. Douglas planted himself beside Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster and Mr. Cass, in opposition to congressional intervention and upon the principle of self-government; leaving the question of slavery to be decided by the people of the states and territories. Our wisest statesmen and the popular sentiment of all conservative Union men, have settled down upon that doctrine as sound, national, and the only safe basis for the adjustment of the question. The people of the nation so decided in 1852 and 1856 — Mr. Douglas sustained that principle against the storm of opposition, which misrepresentation raised against it in the north, in 1854, and he successfully battled for it during the last session of congress against both friend and foe in the south. In each of those contests the principle of self government was triumphant and Douglas was its great champion and defender. He has appealed to the people of his state for re-election to the U. S. senate, and he is again met by his old opponents, the abolitionists and black republicans, with the issue of congressional intervention — ignoring the doctrine of self-government, and advocating in lieu thereof the prohibition of slavery in all the territories — If it was right that slavery in the territories should be adjusted in 1850 by Mr. Clay, in according to the people of the Territories the principle of self-government upon that as well as all other domestic questions, it is right now. — If it was right that the principle of self-government should be sustained in the contest of 1852 and '56, it is right that it should be sustained in the present canvass. The issues involved in the present canvass are simple and easily understood. It is imply an issue between Mr. Douglas and Mr. Lincoln, involving first, the principle advocated by each and, second, their respective personal merits. Mr. Lincoln was elected, as "the first and last choice" of the republican party for the U. S. senate by the republican state convention which assembled at Springfield on the 16th of June last. Mr. Lincoln opened the canvass in a set speech before that convention in which he selected the slavery question as the issue upon which he would appeal to the people of the state to elect him to the U. S. senate. His speech had been deliberately prepared, and after its delivery it was carefully revised by himself and published in the republican state organ. In that speech he committed himself, not only to a prohibition of slavery in all the Territories, but to agitate upon the subject until slavery should be exterminated in all the states; declaring that the Union could not remain as our father fixed it, half slave and half free, arguing that, if the people of the north did not wage a continued war of agitation against it, it would be extended to all the states.
Mr. Lincoln has thus deliberately defined the issue upon which he seeks the votes of the people of Illinois. It is reasonable to suppose that these deliberately expressed opinions of Mr. Lincoln, given in a public speech at the opening of the canvass, are his honest convictions. No subsequent disclaimer on his part will enable him to avoid the responsibility of his position. His language is so clear and plain that it cannot be misunderstood. He is bound to abide by the position in which his own declarations have placed him before the people of the state. On the other hand, Douglas has been equally clear and explicit in defining his position. He stands as he did in 1850, with Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster, in direct opposition to the slavery agitation programme of Mr. Lincoln. He has planted himself upon the doctrine of leaving the slavery question with the people of each state and Territory; and he abides by the decision of the Supreme Court in deciding that negroes are not citizens of the United States under the constitution.
Here we have the issue between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas in a nutshell. Mr. Lincoln, if elected, will go into the U. S. Senate, as the representative of the great state of Illinois, impressed with the conviction that is his duty, and virtually instructed by the people of his state, who have elected him with a full knowledge of his sentiments, to agitate slavery in that body, not only until slavery has been prohibited in all the Territories, but until slavery has been exterminated or the Union dissolved. Mr. Douglas, on the other hand, has planted himself upon the constitution and the principle of self-government. He believes that if the question of slavery is left where the constitution has placed it — with the people of the states and Territories — there will be no decision to make the States all free or all slave, in order to save the existence of the government. In this canvass, national men should not suffer their attention to be diverted from this main, vital issue, by irrelevant side questions. A heavy responsibility rests upon their foes. If they sustain by their votes, a man who is openly pledged to continued negro agitation they are striking a blow at the peace and welfare of the government.
On the score of personal merit and qualifications, Mr. Lincoln is vastly the inferior of Mr. Douglas. The latter has made his mark as the greatest living statesman of the country. The former classes as a second-rate sate politician, yielding in point of talent to a number of compeers in his own party.