Monday, October 08, 2012
A Real Debate
Just started reading 1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See on my phone after my turn finally came up on the waitlist. I mention this because we're in the midst of debate season and yesterday marked the 154th anniversary of the 5th Lincoln-Douglas battle of wits:
The debates continued around the state: 20,000 spectators sat through a biting wind that ripped banners and flags to tatters Knox College’s Old Main in Galesburg on October 7. Another heavily Republican area, pro-Lincoln signs were visible throughout the crowd.
And sayeth Lincoln in Galesburg:
The Judge has alluded to the Declaration of Independence, and insisted that negroes are not included in that Declaration; and that is a slander upon the framers of that instrument, to suppose that negroes were meant therein; and he asks you: Is it possible believe that Mr. Jefferson, who penned the immortal paper, could have supposed himself applying the language of that instrument to the negro race, yet held a portion of that race in slavery? Would he not at once have freed them? I only have to remark upon this part of the Judge's speech, (and that, too, very briefly, for I shall not detain myself, or you, upon that point for any great length of time,) that I believe the entire records of the world, from the date of the Declaration of Independent up to within three years ago, may be searched in vain for on single affirmation, from one single man, that the negro was not included in the Declaration of Independence.
I think I may defy Judge Douglas to show that he ever said so, that Washington ever said so, that any President ever said so, that any member of Congress ever said so, or that any living man upon the whole earth ever said so, until the necessities of the present policy of the Democratic party, in regard to slavery, had to invent that affirmation. [Tremendous applause.] And I will remind Judge Douglas and this audience, that while Mr. Jefferson was the owner of slaves, as undoubtedly he was, in speaking upon this very subject, he used the strong language that 'he trembled for his country when he remembered that God was just;' and I will offer the highest premium in my power to Judge Douglas if he will show that he, in all his life, ever uttered a sentiment at all akin to that of Jefferson. [Great applause and cries of 'Hit him again,' 'good,' 'good.']
So far in this controversy [regarding Dred Scott] I can get no answer at all from Judge Douglas upon these subjects. Not one can I get from him, except that he swells himself up and says, 'All of us who stand by the decision of the Supreme Court are the friends of the Constitution; all you fellows that dare question it in any way, are the enemies of the Constitution.' [Continued laughter and cheers.] Now, in this very devoted adherence to this decision, in opposition to all the great political leaders whom he has recognized as leaders — in opposition to his former self and history, there is something very marked. And the manner in which he adheres to it — not as being right upon the merits, as he conceives (because he did not discuss that at all), but as being absolutely obligatory upon every one simply because of the source from whence it comes — as that which no man can gainsay, whatever it may be, — this is another marked feature of his adherence to that decision. It marks it in this respect, that it commits him to the next decision, whenever it comes, as being as obligatory as this one, since he does not investigate it, and won't inquire whether this opinion is right or wrong. So he takes the next one without inquiring whether it is right or wrong. [Applause.]
He teaches men this doctrine, and in so doing prepares the public mind to take the next decision when it comes, without any inquiry. IN this I think I argue fairly (without questioning motives at all) that Judge Douglas is most ingeniously and powerfully preparing the public mind to take that decision when it comes; and not only so, but he is doing it in various other ways. In these general maxims about liberty — in his assertions that he 'don't care whether Slavery is voted up or voted down; 'that' whoever wants Slavery has a right to have it;' that 'upon principles of equality it should be allowed to go everywhere;' that 'there is no inconsistency between free and slave institutions.' In this he is also preparing (whether purposely or not), the way for making the institution of Slavery national! [Cries of 'Yes,' 'Yes,' 'That's so.']
I repeat again, for I wish no misunderstanding, that I do not charge that he means it so; but I call upon your minds to inquire, if you were going to get the best instrument you could, and then set it to work in the most ingenious way, to prepare the public mind for this movement, operating in the free States, where there is now an abhorrence of the institution of Slavery, could you find an instrument so capable of doing it as Judge Douglas? or one employed in so apt a way to do it? [Great cheering. Cries of 'Hit him again,' 'That's the doctrine.']
I'm sure that would make for lousy television...
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A Real Debate: