In Egypt – the shame of letting Frederick Douglass ride next to a white woman

Jonesboro, Illinois, Sept. 15

While I doubt it was the late fall heat keeping people away completely, the crowd in this town deep in Southern Illinois’ “Egypt” region with its great rivers is smaller than either of the two previous debates. Reliably there are somewhere near 1,400 people present on this hot afternoon. I suspect the largest reason for this mood change is that we were undeniably in the Democratic stronghold now. Most of those in attendance are from slave-holding states.

Mr. Lincoln arrives with an escort of the corporal’s men, meanwhile, Judge Douglas is celebrated with a parade. It is the Democratic stronghold of Illinois, but even then, the air is strained. 

The stage is set in the Jonesboro fairgrounds. I look around the tiny grove.

As it was in the Ottawa speech, Judge Douglas was the first speaker. He begins with a brief history lesson of the political parties previously, the Whig and Democrat.

Judge Douglas, red-faced as ever, charges Mr. Lincoln with changing views with each area of the state that he visits. He says, “it is apparent that our opponents find it necessary, for partisan effect, to change their colors in different counties in order to catch the popular breeze.”

He proceeds to bring back Mr. Lincoln’s statement that a “house divided against itself cannot stand.” Judge Douglas says it is contrary to the Founding Father’s protection of slavery:

He tells you that this Republic cannot endure permanently divided into slave and free States, as our fathers made it. He says that they must all become free or all become slave, that they must all be one thing or all be the other, or this Government cannot last. Why can it not last, if we will execute the Government in the same spirit and upon the same principles upon which it is founded?…I say that this is the inevitable and irresistible result of Mr. Lincoln’s argument, inviting a warfare between the North and the South, to be carried on with ruthless vengeance, until the one section or the other shall be driven to the wall, and become the victim of the rapacity of the other. 

Judge Douglas  says that there would be no gain from fighting each other and that the founder’s intention was for each state to govern its own path.

             He says that supporters of the “black flag of Abolitionism” have abandoned the national unity of the great compromisers – Sens. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster – and the Founding Fathers’ belief the country could endure half slave and half free. 

             Douglas openly appeals to the crowd’s dislike of race mixing by commenting on a famous national black abolitionist riding in a carriage with white women. 

 “Why, they brought Fred Douglass to Freeport,” he said, “when I was addressing a meeting there, in a carriage driven by the white owner, the negro sitting inside with the white lady and her daughter.”

“Shame” murmured the crowd.

…I hold that this Government was made on the white basis, by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others. I do not believe that the Almighty made the negro capable of self-government…in my opinion, the signers of the Declaration had no reference to the negro whatever, when they declared all men to be created equal. They desired to express by that phrase white men, men of European birth and European descent, and had no reference either to the negro, the savage Indians, the Fejee, the Malay, or any other inferior and degraded race, when they spoke of the equality of men.

Many cheers still greet Mr. Lincoln as he stands to walk to the podium and speak. Mr. Lincoln begins defending himself saying he has never had an opinion which would bring about an infringement of states’ rights.

Mr. Lincoln says that the Founding Fathers had not protected slavery but set it on the course of extinction, until Douglas came along with popular sovereignty spreading slavery in the territories..

 I say, in the way our fathers originally left the slavery question, the institution was in the course of ultimate extinction, and the public mind rested in the belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. I say when this Government was first established, it was the policy of its founders to prohibit the spread of slavery into the new Territories of the United States, where it had not existed. But Judge Douglas and his friends have broken up that policy, and placed it upon a new basis by which it is to become national and perpetual. All I have asked or desired any where is that it should be placed back again upon the basis that the fathers of our Government originally placed it upon. I have no doubt that it would become extinct, for all time to come, if we but readopted the policy of the fathers by restricting it to the limits it has already covered-restricting it from the new Territories.

As for saying  one thing in northern Illinois and another in “Egypt,” he says this:

Did the Judge talk of trotting me down to Egypt to scare me to death? Why, I know this people better than he does. I was raised just a little east of here. I am a part of this people. But the Judge was raised further north, and perhaps he has some horrid idea of what this people might be induced to do. 

Judge Douglas begins his thirty-minute rebuttal with the complaint that Mr. Lincoln was making at the end of his speech, about being carried off the stage at Ottawa. As Judge Douglas makes his quips, it appears to be the first slip of the calm and unflappable composure of Mr. Lincoln. From my position I can see him worrying at his nails with a stormy expression.

Judge Douglas again returns to the argument that while Mr. Lincoln may not have lied about his stances there appears to be a discrepancy in his views and who campaigns for him. 

Judge Douglas addresses Mr. Lincoln’s charge that Judge Douglas’ answer on admitting Kansas into the Union has been unclear. Judge Douglas’ response to that is to call out Mr. Lincoln on not answering it at all. 

Judge Douglas ends by restating the Freeport Doctrine he announced at the previous debate  about how localities can refuse to enforce slavery even in a new state that permits it. 

My doctrine is that, even taking Mr. Lincoln’s view that the decision recognizes the right of a man to carry his slaves into the Territories of the United States, if he pleases, yet after he gets there he needs affirmative law to make that right of any value. The same doctrine not only applies to slave property, but all other kinds of property. Chief Justice Taney places it upon the ground that slave property is on an equal footing with other property. Suppose one of your merchants should move to Kansas and open a liquor store; he has a right to take groceries and liquors there, but the mode of selling them, and the circumstances under which they shall be sold, and all the remedies must be prescribed by local legislation, and if that is unfriendly it will drive him out just as effectually as if there was a Constitutional provision against the sale of liquor. So the absence of local legislation to encourage and support slave property in a Territory excludes it practically just as effectually as if there was a positive Constitutional provision against it. Hence, I assert that under the Dred Scott decision you cannot maintain slavery a day in a Territory where there is an unwilling people and unfriendly legislation..if the people of a Territory want slavery they will have it, and if they do not want it you cannot force it on them. And this is the practical question, the great principle, upon which our institutions rest. (“That’s the doctrine.”)

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