Following Lincoln as He Followed Douglas

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In 1858 Abraham Lincoln came out of political retirement to challenge Stephen A. Douglas for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. The candidates wrangled for 21 hours of joint debate. The campaign was an important landmark on Lincoln's road to the presidency. Author Georgiann Baldino spans the 2100-mile distance between the Illinois debate sites and shows how two political titans aroused the public.

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  • In 2008 the State of Illinois and the nation celebrated the sesquicentennial of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The debates are important because they represent a tipping point for the institution of slavery. Lincoln entered the Illinois Senate race to oppose the expansion of slavery. He and Douglas spread the controversy, much the way an epidemic starts at one point and gathers momentum. How many of you practiced Lincoln-Douglas style debates in school? If you did, you practiced refutation and rebuttal, effective delivery, persuasion, and cross-examination skills. The actual debates involved two masters, arguing the future of the nation in front of the public. If you did, you know that they excelled at persuading people to accept their views. And did a wonderful job of tearing apart the opponent’s. The debates are significant to students of history, law, sociology, civil rights, rhetoric, politics, psychology and celebrity as well as Lincoln enthusiasts.
  • Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun (pro-slavery leader) and Henry Clay were dead. Douglas followed their tradition of oratory. In 1850 Douglas pushed a measure for a "branch" line from Centralia to Chicago through Congress. The branch soon became the main trunk, allowing Chicago to become a railroad hub for the nation. Douglas devoted great energy to pageantry. Traveled in private railroad cars with a canon to announce his arrival. In each of the last two presidential elections Douglas was considered a possible candidate. Lincoln was a state representative for Sangamon County form 1831 to 1841, and a one-term U.S. Congressman. Lincoln had difficulty getting his addresses underway. Lincoln’s House-Divided speech was not completely new, but no one had said it so clearly before. Many people were shocked at the radical nature of that speech. Lincoln used the term “ultimate extinction,” and the slaveholders never forgot that he did. Ten years early Lincoln had opposed the then controversial Mexican War, but in hindsight the war was seen as a noble cause. Douglas charged Lincoln with not supporting the troops, and Lincoln seemed to many to be defensive.
  • Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun (pro-slavery leader) and Henry Clay were dead. Douglas followed their tradition of oratory. In 1850 Douglas pushed a measure for a "branch" line from Centralia to Chicago through Congress. The branch soon became the main trunk, allowing Chicago to become a railroad hub for the nation. Douglas devoted great energy to pageantry. Traveled in private railroad cars with a canon to announce his arrival. In each of the last two presidential elections Douglas was considered a possible candidate. Lincoln was a state representative for Sangamon County form 1831 to 1841, and a one-term U.S. Congressman. Lincoln had difficulty getting his addresses underway. Lincoln’s House-Divided speech was not completely new, but no one had said it so clearly before. Many people were shocked at the radical nature of that speech. Lincoln used the term “ultimate extinction,” and the slaveholders never forgot that he did. Ten years early Lincoln had opposed the then controversial Mexican War, but in hindsight the war was seen as a noble cause. Douglas charged Lincoln with not supporting the troops, and Lincoln seemed to many to be defensive.
  • This was two years before Lincoln ran for president. Few people outside of Illinois knew who he was, but these debates brought him into the national spotlight. Lincoln traveled 4300 miles. Douglas traveled 5000 miles and gave 110 to 130 speeches. Seven debates sites were chosen, one in each Congressional District, other than Springfield and Chicago where both candidates had already spoken. In 1858 Lincoln left his law practice. At the time he rode the 8th Judicial Circuit, approximately 400 miles and 14 stops. The judge and state's attorney traveled the entire circuit. He had retired from politics after on unexciting term as U.S. Congressman, and Douglas made sure the crowd knew that Lincoln’s performance had “submerged” him.
  • The northern part of Illinois identified more closely with anti-slavery views in New England. 400,000 freed African Americans in the U.S. Black Laws in Illinois prevented them from voting, holding political office, sit on juries, or give testimony against whites. Southern counties supported the institution of slavery. Southern leaders could not tolerate verbal attacks on the evils of slavery and hold onto their honor. (Age of Lincoln P. 100) In the middle counties, like many people in the border states, settlers did not want to compete with slaveholders. Lincoln was a Kentuckian born “dirt-poor” as non-slaveholding farmers were called. The state was open and changing rapidly from its frontier beginnings. Population was 851,470 in 1850 and 1,711,951 in 1860. The quote comes from “Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas and the Political Landscape of 1858” by Allen C. Guelzo, The Journal of American History, September 2007, p. 391
  • Kansas was supposed to be paired with Minnesota for admission into the Union. Douglas fought to block the admission of Kansas, because the slave constitution submitted was not fairly adopted. The admission of Minnesota and loss of Kansas upset the balance of power in the Senate. The Republican Party was formed in 1854 and Lincoln came out of political retirement, because the establishment of new territories threatened to expand slavery (Ripon, WI and Jackson, MI both claim to be birthplace of Party.)
  • Voters had concerns other than slavery. The country was still recuperating from the financial panic of the year before, but neither Lincoln nor Douglas said a word about money, banking, or securities reform. The recently completed Atlantic cable suddenly made the world much smaller, but neither spoke about trade, tariff, foreign policy, or immigration. Neither one understood all the complexities when it came to tariffs. In a state not many years removed from the frontier, nothing was said about homestead lands or a transcontinental railroad, which visionaries had dreamed about since 1836. Topics, such as free lands, opposition to monopolies, and internal improvements did not differentiate the candidates, because Lincoln and Douglas essentially agreed on economic issues. They needed a topic with enough unifying power to mold bickering factions within the parties together. The institution of slavery was the best way to gather and solidify support, so they limited the discussion to two topics—personal attacks and the subject of slavery. The Constitution prohibited slave traffic after 1808, but the enslaved population flourished here more than it had done elsewhere. 36-30 is a line drawn westward on Missouri’s southern boundary. The Fugitive Slave law: anyone obstructing the recapture could get a $1,000 fine, six months in jail and $1,000 civil damages for each slave. Turned northerners into enforcers and culpable in slavery’s continuation. (Age of Lincoln p. 72) $2,000 adjusted for inflation would be $41,771 in 2006. The discovery of gold and admission of CA caused westward expansion to explode; raising the stakes for both sides of the sectional controversy. The Kansas-Nebraska Act brought Lincoln out of his private law practice and back into politics. The K-N Act was silent on the key question of when residents could exercise the right of self-government. If the first residents came from slave states and established slavery early they would be likely to include it when they became a state. Kansas Voters rejected a pro-slavery Constitution less than 3 weeks before the first debate (Lecompton.) Douglas claimed the only way slavery disappeared was by popular sovereignty. He had confronted southern Democrats, including President Buchanan, over whether Kansas citizens should be left alone to decide the issue. This split the Democratic voters. Emancipation had happened in 6 of the 12 original slave-holding states: NH, RI, CT, NY, NJ, and PA. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829; England in 1833; by 1838 all British Empire including Canada was free. Dred Scott was freed shortly after the Supreme Court announced its decision and died the day before the 4 th debate a free man. BUT as a symbol and source of public argument the decision was one no one could ignore. Lincoln’s racial thinking was ahead of other people at the time, but he did not believe in equality as we do. Still he did not underestimate the bigotry. A century had to pass before separate schools were deemed unconstitutional and the right to vote was guaranteed. Lincoln aspired to come closer to the ideal that “all men were created equal.”
  • Voters had concerns other than slavery. The country was still recuperating from the financial panic of the year before, but neither Lincoln nor Douglas said a word about money, banking, or securities reform. The recently completed Atlantic cable suddenly made the world much smaller, but neither spoke about trade, tariff, foreign policy, or immigration. Neither one understood all the complexities when it came to tariffs. In a state not many years removed from the frontier, nothing was said about homestead lands or a transcontinental railroad, which visionaries had dreamed about since 1836. Topics, such as free lands, opposition to monopolies, and internal improvements did not differentiate the candidates, because Lincoln and Douglas essentially agreed on economic issues. They needed a topic with enough unifying power to mold bickering factions within the parties together. The institution of slavery was the best way to gather and solidify support, so they limited the discussion to two topics—personal attacks and the subject of slavery. The Constitution prohibited slave traffic after 1808, but the enslaved population flourished here more than it had done elsewhere. 36-30 is a line drawn westward on Missouri’s southern boundary. The Fugitive Slave law: anyone obstructing the recapture could get a $1,000 fine, six months in jail and $1,000 civil damages for each slave. Turned northerners into enforcers and culpable in slavery’s continuation. (Age of Lincoln p. 72) $2,000 adjusted for inflation would be $41,771 in 2006. The discovery of gold and admission of CA caused westward expansion to explode; raising the stakes for both sides of the sectional controversy. The Kansas-Nebraska Act brought Lincoln out of his private law practice and back into politics. The K-N Act was silent on the key question of when residents could exercise the right of self-government. If the first residents came from slave states and established slavery early they would be likely to include it when they became a state. Kansas Voters rejected a pro-slavery Constitution less than 3 weeks before the first debate (Lecompton.) Douglas claimed the only way slavery disappeared was by popular sovereignty. He had confronted southern Democrats, including President Buchanan, over whether Kansas citizens should be left alone to decide the issue. This split the Democratic voters. Emancipation had happened in 6 of the 12 original slave-holding states: NH, RI, CT, NY, NJ, and PA. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829; England in 1833; by 1838 all British Empire including Canada was free. Dred Scott was freed shortly after the Supreme Court announced its decision and died the day before the 4 th debate a free man. BUT as a symbol and source of public argument the decision was one no one could ignore. Lincoln’s racial thinking was ahead of other people at the time, but he did not believe in equality as we do. Still he did not underestimate the bigotry. A century had to pass before separate schools were deemed unconstitutional and the right to vote was guaranteed. Lincoln aspired to come closer to the ideal that “all men were created equal.”
  • The northern tier of Illinois was the last settled and drew heavily from New England with similar religious convictions. The southern regions were settled first from the Upper South and had little interest in eliminating slavery. The central region dominated the social setting of Springfield and most people wanted nothing to do with abolition. Source Lincoln and Douglas, Alan C. Guelzo, p. 70-72
  • Political campaigns acquainted voters with the candidates but also served a social function. In Freeport the Stephenson County Historical Museum has among its prized possessions torches used in the parade. It’s diorama is made of toothpicks and clay.
  • y needed to win four conservative states lost in the 1856 presidential election (IL, IN, PA, NJ). Lincoln had been counting too heavily on the divisions in the Democratic Party to hand him the election. After the H-D speech, the Republican State Committee summoned Lincoln on 7-22 to insist that he was starting to look ridiculous “trailing” Douglas from place to place. Reluctantly Lincoln wrote to Douglas to suggest debates on 7-24, and Norman Judd a Party official hand delivered the letter. (Newspapers were already calling for debates; the Chicago Press & Tribune didn’t wait for Lincoln’s approval. They just ran the story. Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas , The debate that Defined America , P. 89-91 Anti-slavery Whigs (who opposed abolition) Anti-Nebraska Democrats Anti-immigration Know Nothings Abolitionists Whigs were upwardly mobile, middle-class, urban, not rural. They were interested in commerce and industry. Stubborn Illinois Whigs did not want anything to do with abolition. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas, p. 27 and 42
  • Downtown Ottawa, Washington Park. Population in 2006 18,400. All the pictures in the presentation were taken on or near the same day of the year the original debates took place. Artist Rebecca Childers Caleel positioned Lincoln as if he is engaged in gentle persuasion; Douglas’s fists are clenched in disagreement. Knowing the conditions on that day, it is unlikely people on the perimeter heard what was said, but the legacy of Ottawa and the remaining locations is in the way the candidates spoke, not only to Illinois constituents, but to the nation. Neither one of the candidates could have been prepared for the overwhelming public response. Afterward the texts were published in the papers and as a best selling book. Since then they occupy a “sacred” place in history, encompassing history, politics, rhetoric, sociology and morality. There were no chairs to sit on. The sun was scorching hot. Carriages and hooves kicked up a cloud of dust that choked the city. Officials were not prepared for the crowd; ruffians took over the platform and getting them to leave delayed the start of the debate.
  • People had been exposed to lengthy sermons going back to Puritan times, so they expected lengthy speeches. Audiences were impressed that the little man had the big voice, and the big man had the little one. The golden age of oratory filled the Senate with speeches from Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. The phonographic reporters were hired by the partisan newspapers. The Press and Tribune was a Republican paper. The Chicago Times was Democratic. The two versions do not agree, because each paper tried to present their candidate in the best light. The Lincoln scrapbook contains these “cleaned” and edited text versions. Harold Holzer finally collected the unedited transcripts of the opposition papers and published them in 1994.
  • Illinois had already decided the primary issue, the extension of slavery. It entered the Union as a free state in 1818 and revisited the matter in 1824 when a close referendum kept Illinois free. The candidates had the ability to coach public judgment. Lincoln said it at Ottawa, “ public sentiment is everything. He who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions.” He recognized that our laws are subject to change to reflect the will of society. The Republican Party was only 4 years old. (1854 Ripon, WI and Jackson, MI both claim to be birthplace.) Lincoln said Douglas was crazy or a liar. Douglas repeatedly reminded the crowd about Lincoln’s lack of experience. The debates ultimately were about: Lincoln’s fitness for national office; contrasting views of slavery; movement from ideological margins to the political mainstream. Not only Lincoln and Douglas were running but so where the intricacies of Illinois politics; Douglas’s political machine was coming undone when he opposed President Buchanan.
  • The early debates were full of charges and counter-charges. Lincoln claimed that Douglas was part of a conspiracy to spread slavery across the nation. Douglas said that Lincoln was part of a secret abolitionist cabal. Douglas wanted the controversy out of Congress and believed slavery was on a course of ultimate extinction without causing a further split in the country. Lincoln believed that Douglas’s position desensitized the public to the evils of slavery and led the nation in the wrong direction. (3,000,000 slaves in the South 35% of the population. Insisting that African Americans were not included in the Declaration of Independence was like “blowing out the moral lights around us.” The issues were not clear-cut. Society was not ready to accept the idea that liberty must include minorities.
  • “ This tablet marks the site of the first LD debate, 8-21-1858, Erected by Illini Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution Ottawa, IL, 8-21-1908
  • The car Douglas leased was the Illinois Central Railroad directors’ private passenger car. The flatbed cannon was accompanied by two gunners in red militia shirts and cavalry sabers. Lincoln hopped along with no baggage or secretary. The debates turned out to be a godsend for Lincoln and a cost-effective device for the Party Committees. Two papers printed transcripts within days and the question of whether Lincoln or Douglas would go to the Senate absorbed people. Little Egypt was Jonesboro, where northerners went for grain in bad winters. Ottawa was an abolitionist stronghold. The problem with Douglas’s program of popular sovereignty was that North and South could interpret his position in completely opposite ways. For example, he did not specify when the people could decide, as a territory or when they became a state. (If it was let in as a territory, it would be impossible to undo.) Douglas asked if Lincoln opposed the admission of additional slave states. Lincoln waited until Freeport to answer. Lincoln said when white men rule themselves it is self-government; when they govern another it is despotism.
  • Near the center of downtown Freeport. Population in 2006 25,000. Raw weather should have been enough to dampen spirits—cloudy, cool, moist—but it did not. Again, no chairs for the crowd. The conspiracy theories are rejected by historians, because there is little objective evidence. But Conspiracy claims differentiated the candidates, paved the way for historical and moral arguments. Lincoln felt that Douglas’s arguments about the Constitution, history, Founding Fathers, popular sovereignty was anesthetizing the nation to the evil of slavery. The argument that Douglas was part of a proslavery conspiracy really didn’t go over well. But it set up enough doubt that later on, when Lincoln started to paint Douglas as the instrument used by the conspirators, Lincoln was more effective. In 1992, a life-size statue, "Lincoln and Douglas in Debate" was added. This is the only statue which shows Lincoln sitting. On August 27, 1992, the 134th anniversary of the debate, the life-size statue, “Lincoln and Douglas in Debate” sculpted by Lily Tolpo of Stockton, Illinois, was dedicated. The expression the artist created for Douglas’s face evokes the dark counsel he gave, claiming the Republicans would destroy the South or split the Union. If you go to Freeport, be sure to stop in the Alber Ice Cream parlor adjacent to the park.
  • The Freeport Lincoln-Douglas debate site was commemorated with a large boulder and plaque dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. In 1929 the Freeport Lincoln-Douglas Society maintained an office and staff of employees. Under the direction of Albert O. Barton, a Lincoln scholar and editor, they received and later published letters and calls from survivors who heard one or more of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The Freeport Woman’s club had the boulder place in 1902.
  • Douglas made an analogy with property rights in Dred Scott and local liquor laws. A man could bring liquor into the territories, but unless local laws were favorable could not make it part of commerce. Lincoln knew the South now had the means to take slavery everywhere. This decision was pure joy to southerners; it set an impossible standard for abolition. (Age of Lincoln p. 87) Douglas said if Lincoln opposed the Dred Scott decision he was on a slippery slope for full equality—something the country was not ready to consider. Lincoln answered the Ottawa questions, said he would hate to be put to the test whether to admit another slave state; Douglas replied to the audience’s delight, “I do not think he will be put to the test.” In Freeport the questions Lincoln asked Douglas, made him unacceptable to the South. Question 1. If the people of Kansas shall, by means entirely unobjectionable in all other respects, adopt a State constitution, and ask admission into the Union under it, before they have the requisite number of inhabitants according to the English bill, -- some ninety-three thousand, -- will you vote to admit them? Q. 2. Can the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State constitution? Q. 3. If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that States cannot exclude slavery from their limits, are you in favor of acquiescing in, adopting, and following such decision as a rule of political action? Q. 4. Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory, in disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the slavery question?
  • Off the main road. Population 1900. Library only open Tues thru Sat from 1-5. Librarian brought her son, who played ball between the book stacks. Weather that day was hot and humid, typical for an area south of most of Virginia. Although this was a Democratic stronghold, a meager crowd greeted Douglas at the train station. Only slight preparations had been made for the debate because the Buchanan people would not help in any way. At the conclusion of the debate there were loud calls for Col. John Dougherty to speak. Despite being drowned out at times by howls from the Douglas faction, Dougherty made a “stirring Buchanan speech, denouncing Douglas in the strongest possible terms.” p. 86 A House Divided: Union County Illinois 1818-1965 In 1963 the old stone marker became defaced and was replaced with this stone and this plaque was dedicated on September 15, 1963. Smallest crowd of 1,500, but Jonesboro was important. Lincoln showed consistency, ending the talk of being trotted down to Egypt. Lincoln asked Douglas if he would support protective legislation if the South requested it. Douglas said no, offending southerners more than he did in Freeport. They took his answer to mean Douglas would support popular sovereignty only if it promoted freedom.
  • Southerners saw that without more slave states expanding into the territories, the free states would eventually eliminate the pro-slavery veto power of antislavery legislation, and at some point be able to amend the Constitution. In private, Douglas called slavery a “curse beyond computation.” In public he said the morality was about who had the right to decide. But the Constitution wasn’t fought over during the debates. It was glorified. It was fought for. This great experiment in democracy had to be preserved at all costs. Many people feared Lincoln, because they saw him as a threat to the delicate balance that maintained the Union. Talking about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers raised the stakes. It hardened positions and made compromise less likely. If the opponent’s position was called unconstitutional, it made him seem more illegitimate and dangerous.
  • Away from the center of town at the county fairgrounds . Another hot, dusty day. Eleven train cars came from neighboring Indiana. The long procession that brought the candidates to the fairgrounds became enveloped in a dusty haze. 12,000 in attendance, divided equally between candidates. The town normally had 900 residents. Population now 21,000 Coles County fairgrounds first fair in 1855, which makes the location is the oldest continuously held county fair in Illinois. The museum is 200 paces away from the actual site of the debate. The museum was dedicated 7-22-2000. The inscription at the base of the bronze statues of Lincoln and Douglas by John McLarey captures people’s sentiments: “Two great Americans study the chasm caused by the split in the country over slavery and its extension.”
  • Because Lincoln hammered away at Douglas for being part of the deal to spread slavery he scored best here on election day. Douglas claimed Lincoln was in an abolitionist cabal. Historians dismiss the conspiracy theories, because there is little objective evidence to support them. But the charges on both sides gained wide acceptance because they removed guilt and responsibility from the community at large. Another noteworthy part of the Charleston debates was Lincoln’s denial that he believed in equality for the races. (Remarks he did not repeat.) In the first five minutes of Lincoln’s talk he said things about race and equality that people talked about since (Mr. Splaine quote in the CNN re-enactments 1994.) At 125 year-celebration in 1983 the familiarly shaped "Historic Marker" sign on the highway by the Fairgrounds could not be read from the road, and there was no room to park on either side of the highway. From inside the Fairgrounds we saw no way to get over the high fence, and even if we could get over it, we would have to negotiate some rather high prairie grass, So this is one time we 'blew' it in our effort to see all the Historic Markers. However, in one corner of the Fairgrounds is a large sign identifying the area as the site of the Coles County Fair . Charleston was home to Lincoln’s family. It is also the location of the “ugliest” Lincoln statue in the world.
  • Memorial erected and dedicated under the auspices of the Charleston Post 271 G.A.R. and the Coles Co. Chautauqua Association 7-28-1915. State and federal leaders from President Lincoln down had promised to care for "those who have borne the burden, his widows and orphans," but they had little knowledge of how to accomplish the task. With that as background, groups of men began joining together--first for camaraderie and then for political power. Emerging most powerful among the various organizations would be the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) , which by 1890 would number 409,489 veterans of the "War of the Rebellion." Chautauqua refers to an adult education movement in the United States , highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • Lincoln emphasized the conspiracy theories at Charleston. The first five minutes of Lincoln’s speech was about social equality, which he had to deny. This was a very racist time in our nation’s history. What was happening to African-Americans and Native Americans were crimes against humanity, and no one was ready to talk about social equality. Wage slaves worked factories. Women were gender slaves. Strategies: Repeat the message (before radio and TV); Admit nothing (force the opponent to prove everything—both were lawyers; put the opponent on the defensive (D. made L. defend his House-Divided speech and record on the Mexican War—L. took the moral high ground); throw your opponent’s words back with a new slant (D. said L’s House-Divided speech was disunionist—L. used D’s words to prove a conspiracy with former President Franklin Pierce, Justice Taney and President Buchanan); turn the tables (both candidates said the other didn’t answer his questions; connect with the audience at Jonesboro L. said he was raised a little east of the town “I am part of this people”; appeal to the audience’s goodwill (both candidates read prior clippings to suggest how the crowd should react); ignore it if you can (they did not refute allegations if they could get away with it); appeal to fear (both said if the policies of the other were adopted Illinois’ and the nations worst fears would be realized—trampling on the rights of states or continuing slavery and force an irrepressible conflict; hit him again (both used one-liners to get the crowd to yell “hit him again”); use humor and sarcasm skillfully (the debate texts are dotted with the audience responses and interruptions of laughter, cheers, and applause; D. said L. was a simple shopkeeper, serving spirits, when he had advanced to teaching school. L. responded that D. was one of his best customers.
  • The weather brought arctic winds. The day before had heavy rains, but the strong NW wind cleared the storms on the day of the debate, while sending shivers through the crowd. "Old Main” a structure that was built in 1856 and restored and rededicated during the Knox College Centenary in 1937. The building is still in use by Knox College, an educational institution that had been in operation for 21 years at the time of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Avard Fairbanks worked on a number of Abraham Lincoln monuments. He erected a heroic bronze in New Salem Village , Illinois, another at Lincoln Square in Chicago entitled "The Great Chicago Lincoln", and another called "Lincoln the Friendly Neighbor" in Berwyn, Illinois. At Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, Avard made bronze panels commemorating the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and he placed four busts of Lincoln in the Ford Theater Museum - the youth , the railsp litte r , the lawy er, and the president . The plaques on the bui lding are dated 1958. Galesburg population in 2006 was 33,000.
  • Ralph Fletcher Seymour painted the Galesburg debate for the 1958 centennial. Douglas is in the picture twice, because the artist could not document where the Senator was seated. Seymour is in the picture too in the green suit, leaning forward and paying rapt attention to Lincoln. The Library of Congress has digitized the Lincoln scrapbook, and you can see images on-line, including Lincoln’s handwritten corrections for the book version. http://www.loc.gov/library/libarch-digital.html Look for Library of Congress digital collections.
  • The Mississippi River is a few blocks away from debate square. Quincy is named for John Quincy Adams. At the time of the debate the square was called John’s square, now Washington Square. The weather that day was sunny and pleasantly cool, although the roads were muddy from soaking rains in the preceding days. Quincy's downtown Washington Park is a Lorado Taft bronze bas-relief of the Lincoln - Douglas Debate platform, marking the area where the original debate took place. Population in 2006 40,000. The sculpture depicts Lincoln standing beside a small podium, with Douglas seated on the opposite side of the podium with his legs crossed. Douglas' left foot extends out three or four inches from the flat background at about the level of the passerby's hand. The toe of Douglas' shoe has a very bright shine with the original bronze showing through as the result of the thousands of hands that have lightly run over the toe since the statue was unveiled in 1936.
  • Lincoln quote: “We have in this nation this element of domestic slavery. We think it is a wrong, not confining itself merely to the persons or states where it exists, but it is a wrong that in its tendency to say the least that extends itself to the existence of the whole nation.” (Lincoln saw the Kansas-Nebraska Act as an impediment to foreign policy, robbing the U.S. of its just influence in the world.) Douglas quote: “I hold that the people of the slaveholding states are civilized men as well as ourselves that they bear consciences as well as we and that they are accountable to God and their posterity and not to us. It is for them to decide therefore the moral and religious right of the slavery question for themselves within their own limits.”
  • Douglas had lived in Quincy when he was Judge for Adams County. Douglas had repeatedly said he didn’t care whether the territories voted slavery up or down. Lincoln used this to show that Douglas and the Democrats were leading the country in the wrong direction.
  • The Mississippi River is immediately to the left of this picture. The Embassy Casino looms large. In fact, the parking lot is visible behind the statues. ALTON was INFAMOUS. 20 years earlier a lawless mob had killed abolitionist, Elijah Lovejoy. It was “bruited about” that Lincoln would be assassinated if he made the same speeches he made up North. Partly cloudy, beautiful day, one of the best ever. The site is a stone’s throw from the Mississippi. Casino parking lot behind the statues. Mary Todd and Robert Lincoln met Lincoln in Alton. The only debate Mary attended. Robert was a fourth corporeal in the Springfield cadets. Age 15 (August 1, 1843.) This debate was a summary of what had gone before. Douglas’s voice was gone; many people could not hear or understand him, which is a shame because both speeches were masterful. The life-size sculptures of Lincoln and Douglas, created by Jerry McKenna of Boerne, Texas under commission by the Alton-Godfrey Rotary Club, were dedicated on October 15, 1995. During the Illinois State Historical Society meeting April-27-28, 2007, a new historical marker was dedicated in Alton to commemorate the last debate.
  • The Democrats remember: Favored states’ rights. State power and regional differences remained strong. People considered themselves Virginians or New Englanders – not Americans. A majority of Americans felt they knew how to perfect society. Southerners saw northern factory workers as “wage slaves.” Both N and S balked at kidnapping Africans into slavery, which is why the slave trade had been stopped in 1808, as stated in the Constitution.
  • Both assemblies in the state legislature voted in combination. But apathy was not a problem among those who could vote. In 1850s voter turnout for presidential elections was 80%
  • (Population was 851,470 in 1850 and 1,711,951 in 1860.) Had 5 of 6 counties surrounding Springfield gone for Lincoln, he would have won. It reminded me of the hanging chads in Florida in the 2004 presidential election. The margins in 1858 were razor thin. The change of 90 votes in the Thirty-ninth District (Tazewell County) would have elected a Republican state representative. If the state were apportioned according to population, the Republicans would have elected 41 representatives and 14 senators. More than enough of the 100 votes needed to send Lincoln to the U.S. Senate (Guelzo, Journal of American History , Sept. 2007 p. 416) But the influential editor of the Illinois State Register (Crittenden) [Crucible p. 205] swayed votes to Douglas.
  • People considered themselves Virginians or New Englanders—not Americans. This same summer, after the loss of Kansas as a slave state, southern public figures started calling for secession. Douglas traveled south after the debates to reassure friends and supporters in slave states, but saw a pen in Memphis with slaves newly arrived from Africa. People of the time saw the disagreement in terms of North vs. South or Black vs. White. Lincoln saw past those terms to the larger issues of liberty and democracy. Ministers of the time told congregations God expected them to fight for righeousness: North this meant freeing those bound; southern ministers said the faithful must fight to oppose northern infidelity and fanaticism. (Age of Lincoln, p. 118) South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens “would be willing to cover the state with ruin, conflagration and blood rather than submit.” After 3 decades of promising secession SC accomplished it on December 2-, 1860.
  • Following Lincoln as He Followed Douglas

    1. 1. Following Lincoln and Douglas <ul><li>Two Political Giants Debate the Meaning of Democracy </li></ul><ul><li>Copyright Georgiann Baldino </li></ul><ul><li>All Rights Reserved </li></ul>
    2. 2. Lincoln and Douglas set high standards for political debate.
    3. 3. Without Stephen Douglas there would be no Lincoln. <ul><ul><li>Douglas’s Qualifications: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Powerful Incumbent Senator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Expected to be the next U.S. president </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Illinois patronage politician </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Gambler’s instincts </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Polished appearance </li></ul></ul></ul>
    4. 4. Lincoln was relatively unknown, defensive. <ul><li>Lincoln’s Qualifications: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Legislature in Springfield 1831-41 One term in the U.S. House of Representatives Opened his campaign with a “House Divided” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Careless about appearance </li></ul></ul>Photo from the Illinois State Historical Society
    5. 5. Retracing seven formal debates <ul><li>Lincoln followed Douglas around, hoping people would stay for his speeches. </li></ul><ul><li>Republican Committee said Lincoln was starting to look ridiculous. </li></ul><ul><li>Numerous appearances but only seven formal debates </li></ul>
    6. 6. All eyes were on the Prairie State. <ul><li>Illinois suffered divisions like the rest of the country (north-border-south). </li></ul><ul><li>The nation looked at Illinois “as it were, the Union.” </li></ul><ul><li>This race was a test of slavery’s future. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Slavery — Expansion or Extinction? <ul><li>The U.S. map for 1858 </li></ul>1820 1820
    8. 8. In 1850 the South “got all they claimed.” Vast territory could open up to slavery.
    9. 9. 1854 Douglas introduced the KS-NB Act.
    10. 10. The U.S. was behind on this issue. <ul><li>1829 Mexico Freedom </li></ul><ul><li>1833 England Free </li></ul><ul><li>1838 British Empire </li></ul>1 of 7 people in the U.S. was a slave.* * Source 1860 Census
    11. 11. The cancerous growth of slavery 1619 Slaves Arrive 1787 NW Ordinance 1820 Compromise 1850 Compromise 1854 KS-NB Act 1856 Bleeding KS 1857 Dred Scott Ruling
    12. 12. Public sentiment simplified their routes. Swing Swing Swing Source: Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas, 2008 p. 71-72
    13. 13. Campaign as public theater <ul><li>Candidates took the “stump.” </li></ul><ul><li>Flags, barbeque, marching bands and torch-lit processions </li></ul><ul><li>Banners and slogans like modern campaigns </li></ul><ul><li>Partisans came prepared to stay all day </li></ul><ul><li>AND got an eye-opening education. </li></ul>
    14. 14. Lincoln’s middle-road politics <ul><li>The Republican Party was only four years old. </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln needed support from: </li></ul><ul><li>Free-soil advocates indifferent to slavery </li></ul><ul><li>Northern Democrats fed up with southern demands </li></ul><ul><li>Radical abolitionists, morally outraged </li></ul><ul><li>Two things brought Republicans together: </li></ul><ul><li>Opposition to extending slavery </li></ul><ul><li>Distrust of Stephen Douglas </li></ul>
    15. 15. Ottawa ̶ August 21, 1858 10,000 to 15,000
    16. 16. <ul><li>The first candidate spoke for 60 minutes. The second spoke for 90, and the first returned for 30. </li></ul><ul><li>They used a timekeeper but no moderator. </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas began four of seven meetings. </li></ul><ul><li>Three hours represented a “fast” pace. </li></ul>Format of the debates
    17. 17. Preserving the experiment in democracy <ul><li>In the course of history, America was special. </li></ul><ul><li>Citizens wanted to participate in self-government. </li></ul><ul><li>Two experienced lawyers argued the case. </li></ul><ul><li>The discussion evolved over 21 hours at seven meetings. </li></ul><ul><li>It was also a test of Party politics. </li></ul>
    18. 18. What did they say to voters? Abide by Constitutional Limits Change to Popular Sovereignty Economic Opportunity for Individuals Economic Expansion for the Nation Slavery is bad for the nation. Self-Determination Doing grave wrong should not be subject to a vote. Moral judgements are inappropriate in politics. The Union is worth preserving only because of the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln will destroy the Union. It’s not about N vs S but liberty. My policies can be proclaimed everywhere, North and South.
    19. 19. Boulders commemorate the locations.
    20. 20. The drama unfolded in cliff-hanging installments. <ul><li>Douglas threatened to trot Lincoln down to Egypt. </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln failed to answer some of the questions. </li></ul><ul><li>Everyone expected a farce. </li></ul>Douglas traveled with a brass howitzer to “awaken the natives along the route.”
    21. 21. Freeport ̶ August 27 15,000
    22. 22. Freeport Woman’s Club Plaque, placed in 1902 “ Memory lets me see again the strong, earnest faces of our men, striving to clutch every word, for they had minds to dissect what was said.” J. H. Dunn President Teddy Roosevelt dedicated the plaque in 1903.
    23. 23. Hotly contested legal issues In 1857 the Dred Scott decision declared slaves were property. Slave owners could not be deprived of property without due process. Lincoln set a trap with legal questions. How could territories opt for freedom if southerners could bring “property” with them? The answers Douglas gave became legendary.
    24. 24. Jonesboro ̶ September 15 1,500
    25. 25. What would the Founding Fathers do? <ul><li>Douglas: They owned slaves. </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln: They outlawed slavery in the only territory the U.S. had at the time. </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas: The framers “made” the country half slave and half free. </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln: They “found” the country that way and put slavery on a course of ultimate extinction. </li></ul>
    26. 26. Jonesboro artwork placed in 2008
    27. 27. Charleston ̶ September 18 12,000 to 15,000
    28. 28. Charleston Debate Museum <ul><li>Trace the candidates’ signatures </li></ul><ul><li>Step into outlines of Lincoln’s size 14 shoes </li></ul><ul><li>See the best available pictures of all locales </li></ul>
    29. 29. The marker is 200 yards from the museum.
    30. 30. Negative campaigning <ul><li>Lincoln: Douglas is in a conspiracy to spread slavery across the nation. </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas: Lincoln is in a secret abolitionist cabal. </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas: Lincoln failed to support the troops during the Mexican War. </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln lost his composure in Charleston. </li></ul>
    31. 31. Galesburg ̶ October 7 15,000 to 20,000
    32. 32. Old Main, one debate building still in use <ul><li>The candidates crawled through the window. </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln laughed he had finally been through college. </li></ul>
    33. 33. Lincoln gains national attention <ul><li>Painting in Old Main shows a reporter on the dais. </li></ul>Newspapers printed the speeches within days. Lincoln and Douglas both knew they were speaking to the nation. Seymour painting by permission of Norm Winick
    34. 34. Quincy ̶ October 13 10,000 to 15,000
    35. 35. Issue Number One
    36. 36. Tell the voters what they want to hear. <ul><li>Douglas said moral judgments are inappropriate in public affairs. </li></ul><ul><li>He did not defend slavery. </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas said he didn’t care if slavery was voted UP or DOWN. </li></ul><ul><li>For Douglas, democracy was a process of majority rule. </li></ul>
    37. 37. Alton ̶ October 15 5,000
    38. 38. Eight Weeks Defined Democracy <ul><li>Ottawa “fragmentary” </li></ul><ul><li>Freeport “legendary” </li></ul><ul><li>Jonesboro “consistent” </li></ul><ul><li>Charleston “uncommitted” </li></ul><ul><li>Galesburg “principled” </li></ul><ul><li>Quincy “grueling” </li></ul><ul><li>Alton “eloquent” </li></ul>
    39. 39. Results too close to call <ul><li>Free Trader praised Douglas: “He enchained the audience…, portraying the truth and beauties of the democracy and exposing the deformities and evils of federalism so as to carry conviction to every unprejudiced mind.” </li></ul><ul><li>Ottawa Republican blasted Douglas: “Uncivil language against all who oppose him…dodged points at issue…his speech lasted over two hours during which time there was not a rational point made.” </li></ul><ul><li>Who won? </li></ul>
    40. 40. <ul><li>Prior to 1913 state legislatures elected U.S. Senators. </li></ul><ul><li>Only 100 members of Illinois State Legislature could vote. </li></ul><ul><li>A pointless exercise? </li></ul>Election politics
    41. 41. Immediate result <ul><li>Lincoln delegates won the popular vote. </li></ul><ul><li>But lost the election. </li></ul><ul><li>Due to rapid growth in the northern population, not reflected in the districts, Democrats won majorities in the state legislature. </li></ul>
    42. 42. Aftermath The speeches were collected and published as best-selling books. Four printings were needed in 1860 alone. Regional differences widened. Southerners: revived the slave trade pushed for slave codes in the territories vowed not to submit
    43. 43. Lincoln letter of November 19, 1858 <ul><li>“ The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one or even, one hundred defeats. Douglas had the ingenuity to be supported in the late contest both as the best means to break down, and to uphold the Slave interest. No ingenuity can keep those antagonistic elements in harmony long. Another explosion will soon come.” </li></ul>
    44. 44. Select Sources <ul><li>Lincoln/Net is the product of the Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project. Based at Northern Illinois University, the Lincoln Project works with a number of Illinois institutions. http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/debates.html </li></ul><ul><li>The Lincoln Scrapbook , Digitized by the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/library/libarch-digital.html </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery In the Crucible of Public Debate , David Zarefsky, The University of Chicago Press, 1990 </li></ul><ul><li>Lincoln and Douglas, The Debates that Defined America , Allen C. Guelzo, Simon & Schuster, 2008 </li></ul>

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