Charleston, Illinois, Sept. 18
As fall becomes well and truly upon us so does the frequency of the Lincoln and Douglas public feud. This debate is set to take place on the Coles County Fairgrounds, and it is filled with upwards of ten thousand people, perhaps nearer to fifteen thousand. Eleven railroad cars of people arrived from Indiana.
Again there is much pageantry involved with the arrival of the speakers. It’s said both had begun their trip to Charleston from Mattoon which is about a twelve-mile journey. Once more Judge Douglas’ arrival is noted by the sound of a cannon firing.
Mr. Lincoln comes in with a wagon drawn by an ox. Within Mr. Lincoln’s procession was a wagonful of maidens – and among that there were thirty-two done up to represent the states by wearing sashes, and perhaps it is worth noting that this is perhaps the greatest showing of women being active in these debates thus far, ride in on a wagon bearing the inscription:
Westward the star of empire takes its way;
The Girls link-on to Lincoln
Their mothers were for Clay
At the end of the procession, a woman was wearing a sash, similar to others, marking her as Kansas in statehood, also wearing the banner with the phrase “I WILL” be free.” Quite the controversial statement and I wondered if this would be the topic of the debates today or if Mr. Lincoln would be answering Judge Douglas’ charges about his claims of wanting equality for the races. Or perhaps, Judge Douglas will be so infuriated about the banners displaying a smaller Mr. Lincoln fighting against at giant Judge Douglas or the one calling Douglas the “little giant” and calling Mr. Lincoln “Abe the Giant Killer” that he cannot form a coherent argument.
Following precedent, it will be Mr. Lincoln’s turn speaking first – this afternoon. There is a momentous amount of applause as he rises to speak. While we are still nearer to the heart of the Democrats, I wondered if some of the excitement was perhaps spurred by the idea of a “Lincoln Homecoming.” His father and stepmother once called this town home. He begins his speech by calling for silence.
He then starts by answering the charges presented by Judge Douglas and perhaps others in the opposing party and maybe within his own that he favors racial equality.
While I was at the hotel to-day, an elderly gentleman called upon me to know whether I was really in favor of producing a perfect equality between the negroes and white people. (Within the audience, there was a roar of laughter at the idea.) While I had not proposed to myself on this occasion to say much on that subject, yet as the question was asked me, I thought I would occupy perhaps five minutes in saying something in regard to it. I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
I do not understand that because I do not want a negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. [Cheers and laughter.] My understanding is that I can just let her alone. I am now in my fiftieth year, and I certainly never have had a black woman for either a slave or a wife.
I will also add to the remarks I have made (for I am not going to enter at large upon this subject,) that I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friends would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it, [laughter] but as Judge Douglas and his friends seem to be in great apprehension that they might, if there were no law to keep them from it, [roars of laughter] I give him the most solemn pledge that I will to the very last stand by the law of this State, which forbids the marrying of white people with negroes. [Continued laughter and applause.]
Once his time is up, Lincoln sits down to a round of applause and Judge Douglas takes the podium. There is a great difference in their bearings and stature that one cannot help but compare when they stand next to each other. Judge Douglas begins his speech with the usual fire that he has presented throughout this journey.
Judge Douglas responds to Mr. Lincoln’s long remarks about a speech given by Sen. Lyman Trumbull. Trumbull, from Alton, is the other Illinois senator and himself a national figure.
Discussion of Sen. Trumbull has occupied much discussion throughout the debates. Douglas has accused Lincoln of transforming the Whig party of Sens. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster into an abolitionist party. And he accuses Trumbull of abolitionizing the Democratic Party.
Douglas portrays this as an abandonment of the great slavery compromises of Clay and Webster and an abandonment of the Founding Fathers’ view that the nation could continue half slave and half free. Douglas portrays it as abandoning the Clay-Webster national principles he stands for and adopting abolitionist sectionalism. Douglas put it this way:
… no sooner was the sod grown green over the grave of the immortal Clay, no sooner was the rose planted on the tomb of the god-like Webster, than many of the leaders of the Whig party, such as Seward, of New York, and his followers, led off and attempted to abolitionize the Whig party, and transfer all your old Whigs, bound hand and foot, into the Abolition camp. Seizing hold of the temporary excitement produced in this country by the introduction of the Nebraska bill, the disappointed politicians in the Democratic party united with the disappointed politicians in the Whig party, and endeavored to form a new party composed of all the Abolitionists, of abolitionized Democrats and abolitionized Whigs, banded together in an Abolition platform.
And who led that crusade against National principles in this State? I answer, Abraham Lincoln on behalf of the Whigs, and Lyman Trumbull on behalf of the Democrats, formed a scheme by which they would abolitionize the two great parties in this State.
Once more Judge Douglas discusses how Lincoln changes his politics based on what part of the state that it is in.
“I admired many of the white sentiments contained in Lincoln’s speech at Jonesboro, and could not help but contrast them with the speeches of the same distinguished orator made in the northern part of the State. Down here he denies that the Black Republican party is opposed to the admission of any more slave States, under any circumstances, and says that they are willing to allow the people of each State, when it wants to come into the Union, to do just as it pleases on the question of slavery. In the North, you find Lovejoy, their candidate for Congress in the Bloomington District, Farnsworth, their candidate in the Chicago District, and Washburne, their candidate in the Galena District, all declaring that never will they consent, under any circumstances, to admit another slave State…”
Judge Douglas uses the last of his time to again pursue the argument of black equality and demand Lincoln say whether a black man can be a citizen.
Every where up north he has declared that he was not in favor of the social and political equality of the negro, but he would not say whether or not he was opposed to negroes voting and negro citizenship. I want to know whether he is for or against negro citizenship? He declared his utter opposition to the Dred Scott decision, and advanced as a reason that the court had decided that it was not possible for a negro to be a citizen under the Constitution of the United States. If he is opposed to the Dred Scott decision for that reason, he must be in favor of confering the right and privilege of citizenship upon the negro! I have been trying to get an answer from him on that point, but have never yet obtained one…
Douglas leaves no doubt about his position:
I say that this Government was established on the white basis. It was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and never should be administered by any except white men. I declare that a negro ought not to be a citizen, whether his parents were imported into this country as slaves or not, or whether or not he was born here. It does not depend upon the place a negro’s parents were born, or whether they were slaves or not, but upon the fact that he is a negro, belonging to a race incapable of self-government, and for that reason ought not to be on an equality with white men. (Immense applause.)
Once Mr. Lincoln resumes the podium he replies that Judge Douglas had never asked him on the question of black citizenship.
I tell him very frankly that I am not in favor of negro citizenship. [Renewed applause.] …Now my opinion is that the different States have the power to make a negro a citizen under the Constitution of the United States if they choose. The Dred Scott decision decides that they do not have that power. If 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.
Once Lincoln has closed his speech, like Judge Douglas he is greeted with a great round of applause and even a smattering of chants for additional speeches, which is a likely thing with the celebration tonight at the bonfire. If one were to judge the winner by the applause, there would be no clear victor.