Lincoln and Douglas: Influence of the Great Debate

Lincoln and Douglas: Influence of the Great Debate

This is an excerpt from The Battle of Principles by Newell Dwight Hillis. It was first published in the USA in 1912, putting it in the public domain in that country.

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LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS: INFLUENCE OF THE GREAT DEBATE

Strictly speaking, there were three stages in the development of the anti-slavery sentiment leading up to the Civil War. There was the period of indifference, from 1759 to 1830, when the North winked at slavery, ignored the traffic and avoided the whole subject. There was the epoch of agitation, from 1831 to 1850, when Garrison and his friends insisted upon “the immediate and unconditional emancipation of the slaves on the soil,” and the agitation was kept up by men who “would not retreat, who would not equivocate, who would not be silent and who would be heard.” Then came the stage when men tried legislative palliatives; when all manner of political medicaments and poultices were tried as cures, which were about as effective in destroying the poison as a porous plaster would be to draw out the fire from a volcano. For more than sixty years a veil had hung before men’s minds, and it was as if they saw slaves as trees walking, in an unreal world. The sea captain fears a fog more than an equinoctial storm. When the mist falls, and obscures the glass, and the ship is surrounded with white darkness, and the surf is thundering on some Nantucket, as a graveyard of the sea, the captain longs for a cold, sharp wind out of the North, to cut the fog and bring out the stars and sun. And not otherwise was it with the great debate between Lincoln and Douglas—it lifted the veil from men’s eyes, it swept the fog out of the air, it made the issue clear. Then it was that for the first time the North saw that the conflict was inevitable, because the Union could not endure permanently, half slave and half free; saw that liberty and slavery were as irreconcilable as day and night.

Before considering the influence of Lincoln’s clear thinking and speaking upon the eternal principles of right, we must note the general reawakening of the popular intelligence which preceded it, and which was due to two causes, the panic of 1857 and the religious revival which swept over the land during the same year. As the Northern merchant began to see that the South had determined to secede and try her fate alone, he became afraid to sell his goods to Southern customers. The Northern manufacturer, in turn, was overstocked, and if the banker called his loans there was no response, for the chain was broken; the result was the panic of 1857. Hunger and Want stalked through the land—Winter and Poverty became bosom friends. Black despair fell upon the people and in the hour of need they cried unto God, and God heard them.

When a nation prospers and grows rich, religion languishes. When nations enter upon disaster and peril, the people turn unto God. Abundance enervates. Morals always sink to a low level when men’s eyes stand out with fatness.

What agitation, what the liberator and the lecture platform, what statesmen and compromisers could not achieve, was accomplished by the spirit of God working upon the hearts of men, clarifying the intellect, deepening the sympathy and lending vigour to the will.

The first thing the leader of an orchestra does is to see to it that the instruments are all unified and brought up to concert pitch, and the revival of religion made the people one in self-sacrifice and their willingness to live and die for their convictions.

Multitudes returned to the churches. Thoughtless youth discovered that there are only two great things in the universe—God and the soul. Personal religion became the supreme interest of the hour. Men went into the crucible commonplace; they came out of it heroic stuff. All over the country the churches were open every night in the week. Moving across the country the traveller saw the candles burning in the little schoolhouses, while the farmers assembled to pray and read God’s word. The Fulton Street prayer-meeting in New York attracted the interest of the nation. The morning newspapers of 1858 carried columns concerning the business men’s noon prayer-meeting, just as to-day they carry the column on the stock news and the stock market. In his “History of the United States” Rhodes calls attention to the fact that 230 persons joined Plymouth Church on profession of faith on a single Sunday morning. That revival all over the land put its moral stamp upon boys and girls who afterwards became the leaders of the generation.

Now every reform and every great war for principle proceeds along intellectual lines clearly laid out. Twenty-seven years before the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the “Tariff of Abominations” had brought up the question of the right of the Southern states to secede. Calhoun had set up his famous doctrine, and Webster, in his “Second Reply to Hayne,” had knocked it down. The feeling had been intense, but Webster’s wonderful oration in defense of the Constitution and the Union had succeeded in meeting the crisis, and settling for a time the vexing problem. Yet the evil of slavery continued its fatal gnawing at the heart of the nation. By 1855-6 the old question was up again in much the same form. The atmosphere was clouded, the black shroud of the approaching storm already discernible on the horizon. A hundred minor problems united in complicating the discussion of the one all-important thing. Another leader was wanted to set the battle in array, to mark out the lines of conflict. Webster and Calhoun were gone, but another was to come to preserve “liberty and union, one and inseparable.” This man was Abraham Lincoln, and the opponent who was to call out his clearest expositions of the situation, and spur him on to his greatest arguments, was Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois.

Douglas was born in 1813, in Brandon, Vermont. His father was a physician of great promise, who fell with a stroke of apoplexy at a moment when he was carrying the child Stephen in his arms. The ambitions of the father for intellectual leadership were fulfilled in the son, who at fifteen years of age had attracted the notice of the best minds in his region. Strong men became interested in the boy, and advised his mother to take him to a relative in Canandaigua, N. Y., where there was an excellent academy. At seventeen he entered a lawyer’s office, attended every trial before the justice of the peace or the county clerk, and made a local reputation as a student of politics and law. At twenty years of age, he started West, to make his fortune, but fell ill in Cleveland, O., and all but lost his life. A few months later he entered the town of Winchester, Ill., a stranger, in a strange land. He carried his coat on one arm and a little bundle of clothes on the other. There was a crowd on the corner of the street, where an auctioneer was selling the personal effects and live stock of some settler, and within a few minutes Douglas was engaged as clerk at the auction. At the end of three days he found himself the possessor of six dollars, which was the first money he had ever earned, and what was far more important, he had by his accuracy, good nature and kindliness won the hearts of the purchasers, and attracted the attention of the two or three leading men of the town. That winter he opened a private school, in which forty scholars were enrolled, while he continued his studies of law during the long evenings. Ten crowded and successful years soon swept by, and those years held remarkable achievements. He was admitted to the bar, elected to the Legislature, made Secretary of State, judge of the Supreme Court, and at thirty was sent to Congress. He spent three years in Congress; at thirty-six was chosen to fill out an unexpired term in the Senate, was reëlected to represent Illinois, and a third time was chosen senator—a career of uniform and splendid success from the material view-point.

But the career of Douglas in Washington was the career of an opportunist, at once full of good and full of evil, full of right and full of wrong. He was a born politician, an expert manager of men and a natural machine builder. Many others outranked Douglas in set speeches, but few equalled him in “catch as catch can” methods of the politician. What Douglas prided himself upon was his skill in getting through the committee measures that were difficult to pass. When it became necessary to get a man’s vote for his measure, Douglas would put that man up as a leader, give him the glory, obliterate himself, and after the bill was passed, hop up like a jack in the pulpit, as the real manager who manœuvred the bill through the Senate. He spent two years on the legislation that brought about the Illinois Central Railroad, and as long a time in founding the University of Chicago.

Often Douglas did things that he believed to be morally wrong because he discovered that they were politically necessary. For example, a reaction followed upon the election of the Democrat, James K. Polk, to the presidency. When his leadership was imperilled, Polk cast about for some issue that would bring together the remnants of his party, and restore leadership, and he hit upon the device of the Mexican War. No party was ever defeated that was fighting a war for the defense of the country. Douglas criticized Polk most sharply, charged the war upon Polk as a crime against the people, and yet, under the whip of party policy, Douglas supported Polk. Slowly he deteriorated in his moral fibre. One by one the moral lights seem to have gone out. He was intoxicated by his own success. Ambition deluded him. He began to follow the will-o’-the-wisp, the light that rises from putrescence and decay in the swamp, and forgot the eternal stars in God’s sky. In 1854 he entered the valley of decision, and like the rich young ruler made the great refusal, and chose compromise instead of principle. Later Douglas led his party along a false route, and became a mistaken leader.

The circumstances were these; the compromise measures of 1850 had succeeded apparently in achieving the aim of their author, Henry Clay. The close of the year 1853 was marked by political repose and calm. The slavery question seemed practically settled. As President Pierce expressed it in his message, “A sense of security” had been “restored to the public mind throughout the Confederacy.” Prosperity was blessing the country, times were good, the future bright with the promise of immense industrial achievements. In Congress, a bill for the organization of the territory of Nebraska had passed the House at the previous session, and was being reported to the Senate, but the bill was in the usual form and contained no reference to slavery. Suddenly the press announced that Senator Douglas had read a report on this bill, purporting to show that the compromise measures of 1850 had established a great principle; that this principle stated the perpetual right of the residents of new States to decide all questions pertaining to slavery; and that therefore, contrary to the old Missouri Compromise, ruling slavery out of that Northwest territory, it left the slavery question entirely in the hands of the residents of the new territory of Nebraska.

The announcement created a profound sensation. Twelve days later a Kentucky senator by the name of Dixon introduced an amendment to the Nebraska Act, providing for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The daring of this move startled even Douglas, but within a few days the Illinois senator had decided to support the Dixon Amendment. With all the skill and political engineering at his command, he steered the bill through the tempest which immediately rose against it like a tidal wave; and on the third of March, in spite of protests which poured in from every State in the North, in spite of indignation meetings held in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, in spite of the opposition of the leaders like Seward, Chase and Sumner, he actually succeeded in persuading the Senate to pass the bill. That he was able to do this, is a great tribute to his powers as a politician and as an orator. He spoke from midnight until dawn, employing every possible trick of rhetoric and logic to carry his point, and showing a courtesy and restraint in his attack which won the sympathy even of his opponents. “Never had a bad cause been more splendidly advocated.”

But the victory was a costly one; he had made the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter in the North; he had introduced a new term, “popular sovereignty,” which was to rouse the nation as a red rag rouses a bull. He had started a storm, wrote Seward, “such as this country has never yet seen.” Every great newspaper editor in the North,—Greeley, Dana, Raymond, Webb, Bigelow, Weed,—broke into violent protest against the bill. Not since the fight at Lexington had such a fierce and universal cry of reproach arisen in the land.

And for what had he done all this? Simply that he might increase his chances of obtaining the presidential nomination in 1856. The “solid South” had just begun to be spoken of. Douglas was an acute observer, and he saw that if he could secure the backing of the South, he would have an immense advantage over his rival Cass. It is said that his objection to the Dixon Amendment was overborne solely by the fear that Cass would be before him in supporting it, and thus win the favour of the South. It is the old story of the mess of pottage. Douglas afterwards tried to defend himself on the ground that he was offering to the Democratic party “fresh ammunition,” but all knew, and none better than Douglas, that the Democratic party was in no need of a fresh issue. He had ruthlessly destroyed the peace of the whole nation, for the sake of promoting his own selfish interests,—and that, in vain; as in 1853, Douglas failed to secure the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1856, which was won by Buchanan.

The bill cost Douglas his prestige, and lost him the confidence of one half the people of Chicago and Illinois. His friends called him home in the hope that he might win back the popularity he had lost. But Chicago would have none of him. He entered the city unwelcomed, had to hire a building in which to speak, advertised his own meeting, and on the day of the meeting found the flags at half-mast, while the church bells tolled the funeral of liberty, where hitherto the bells had pealed the notes of joy.

It is impossible not to admire Douglas’s courage in that trying ordeal. He found the hall filled with his opponents, yet he began by saying, “My fellow citizens, I appear before you to vindicate the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.” The words evoked a perfect tumult, which continued for half an hour. He appealed to their sense of fair play and honour, but they asked him whether he had played fair with liberty in Washington. Growing angry, he tried to denounce them as cowards, afraid to listen to a discussion, and they answered that it was cowardly to desert a slave who needed a defender. At eleven o’clock he flung his arms in the air and dared them to shoot, because a man had waved a pistol. The crowd answered with a shower of eggs, while a man shouted that bullets were too valuable to be wasted on traitors. At twelve o’clock the bells rang out the midnight. Douglas pulled out his watch and shouted, “It is midnight. I am going home and to church, and you may go to Hades!” Douglas met a mob in Chicago, just as Beecher met a mob in England. But Beecher conquered his mob in Manchester; the mob in Chicago conquered Douglas. Beecher won, because he was right and the mob was wrong; Douglas lost, because he was wrong and the mob was right. “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all the time; you cannot fool all of the people all of the time” on the great principles of liberty. Douglas’s Kansas-Nebraska Bill brought on an era of civil war in Kansas, sent the guerrillas over the Sunflower State, burned Lawrence, destroyed the State government and filled the whole land with tumult and bitterness. And it cost Douglas his fame and place among the great men of the Republic.

In that critical hour for liberty, Abraham Lincoln entered upon the scene, and challenged Douglas to a debate. It was in the summer of 1858. Both men were candidates for the Senate—Lincoln, the leader of the new Republican party State ticket; Douglas, the best known figure in the land since the death of Clay and Webster. No contrast between two men could have been greater. Lincoln was tall, angular, lanky, awkward, six feet four inches in height. Douglas was short, thick-set, graceful, polished, a man of fine presence, with a great, beautiful head, a high forehead, square chin, perfectly at home on the platform, a master of all the tricks of debate, a born king of assemblies. Lincoln was the stronger man, Douglas the more polished. Lincoln was the better thinker, Douglas the better orator. Lincoln relied upon fundamental principles, Douglas wanted to win his case. Lincoln’s mind was analytical, and he loved to take a theme and unfold it, peeling it like an onion, layer by layer. For Douglas, an oration was a pile of ideas, three hours high. Lincoln’s voice was a high dusty tenor, with small range, and monotonous; Douglas’s voice was a magnificent vocal instrument, extending from the flute-like tone to the deepest roar. Lincoln lacked every grace of the great orator; Douglas had every art that makes the speaker master of his audience. Morally, Lincoln’s essential qualities were his honesty, fairness, and his spirit of good will. Intellectually, he was a thinker, slow, intense, profound, always trying to find a mother principle that would explain a concrete fact. He was reared in childhood on three works—the Bible, Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and the Constitution of the United States. The style of the parable of Jesus and the simple words of the “Pilgrim’s Progress” entered into his thinking like iron into the rich blood of the physical system. His thought was as clear as crystal, his language the simple home words, full of music and old associations. Lincoln knew what he wanted to say, said it, and sat down. Douglas stormed, threatened, cajoled, bribed, and could not stop until he had carried his audience. Lincoln wanted to get the truth out; Douglas wanted to win a crowd over. The one was a statesman, the other was an opportunist, struggling for place. Principles are eternal, and because Lincoln loved principles, Lincoln belongs to the ages. Douglas wanted office, and because the longest office is six years, when the six years were over, the people put another man in his niche; Douglas practically disappeared.

The interest of the people in the seven great joint debates arranged for this senatorial campaign was beyond all description. Douglas travelled in a special train and car, with a flat car carrying a cannon that boomed the announcement of his arrival. He had the wealth and prestige of the Illinois Central Railroad to support him. Lincoln trusted to some friend to drive him across country, or had to be contented with a seat in a caboose of a freight train, waiting on a switch at a siding, while Douglas’s special went whizzing by. The people of each county made the day of the debate a great holiday. From daylight until noon all the converging roads were crowded with wagons, carts and buggies, loaded with people, while other thousands hurried on foot along the dusty road to the meeting place. From the first Douglas knew his peril, in that the eyes of the nation were fixed upon his platform, and that if Lincoln won the debate he won everything. He paid Lincoln the compliment of saying, “He is the strong man of his party, full of wit, facts, dates, and the best stump-speaker, with his droll ways and his dry jokes, in the West. He is as honest as he is shrewd, and if I beat him my victory will be hardly won.”

Very different was the praise that Lincoln gave Douglas, as he contrasted the dazzling fame of the great senator with his own unknown name. “With me,” said Lincoln, “the race of ambition has been a failure, a flat failure; with him it has been one of splendid success. I affect no contempt for the high eminence he has reached; … I would rather stand on that eminence than wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch’s brow.” Douglas’s speeches do not read well, and there are no nuggets, proverbs, bright sayings or brilliant epigrams which one can quote. The substance of his speeches was one and the same, for he traversed the same ground in each of the seven debates, urging ever that the new Republican party was simply disguised abolitionism, that Lincoln wanted to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law, establish the equality of the blacks, that this was a threat of war against the South, and therefore revolutionary and sectional. Over against this mark consider the clarity of Lincoln’s method of thinking and speaking.

In his address to the convention, accepting the senatorial nomination, he had said: “If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion it will not cease until a crisis has been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

When the campaign opened he challenged Douglas to the debate, and the critical contest began.

After several meetings, in which the senator proved himself a slippery wrestler, Lincoln determined to force Douglas into a corner. He wrote a question, and with such skill that Douglas was compelled to answer one way or the other, either answer being fatal to his political ambition. When Lincoln read this question to his advisers, Medill, Washburne and Judd, all begged him not to ask it, saying that it would cost him the senatorship. “Yes, but my loss of the senatorship is nothing. Later on it will cost Douglas the presidency. I am killing bigger game. The battle of 1860 is worth a hundred of 1858.” The question with which Douglas was confronted was this: “Can the people of any United States territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limit prior to the formation of a State constitution?”

What a path perilous was this for Douglas’s feet! The path up the edge of the Matterhorn is a foot wide, yet it is granite, even if the climber does look down thousands of feet upon his right and thousands of feet upon his left. But Lincoln made Douglas walk not upon a narrow granite way, but on a sharp sword. He who tries to walk a tight rope across Niagara has two alternatives—he either arrives, or he does not. Yonder is Stephen Douglas, trying to walk a tight rope over the Niagara.

Forced to an answer, Douglas finally spoke:

“It matters not what way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into any territory under a constitution. The people have the lawful means to exclude it if they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere unless it is supported by local police legislation. Those police regulations can only be established by the local legislature; and if the people are opposed to slavery they will elect representatives to that body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent its introduction into their midst; if, on the contrary, they are for it, their legislation will favour its extension.” Douglas had decided. Southern newspapers took up his statement and the tide of anger rose against the “little giant” that cost him the presidency. Lincoln had digged a pitfall for unwary feet, and the great opportunist fell therein.

After this, Douglas became bitter, excited, and increasingly angry, for the tide was plainly beginning to run against him. Lincoln’s speeches fairly blazed with quotable sentences. “If you think you can slander a woman into loving you, or a man into voting for you, try it till you are satisfied.” Again: “Has Douglas the exclusive right in this country to be on all sides of all questions?” Again: “The plainest print cannot be read through a gold eagle.” Again: “Douglas shirks the responsibility of pulling the national house down, but he digs under it, that it may fall of its own weight.”

To the astonishment of the country, when the debate was over, Lincoln carried Illinois on the popular vote, although he lost the senatorship through the arrangement of legislative districts that gave the election to the Democrats. Disappointed, Lincoln retained his good humour, and laughed over what he called the little episode. “I feel,” said Lincoln, “like the boy who stubbed his toe; it hurt too hard to laugh, and he was too big to cry. But I have been heard on the great subject of the age, and though I now sink out of view and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone.”

Lincoln had now become a national figure. In February, 1860, Mr. Beecher and Henry C. Bowen invited him to speak in New York. The first plan was for him to speak in Plymouth Church, but later considerations led to a change to Cooper Institute. Lincoln arrived in the city late in the week; on Sunday morning he heard Mr. Beecher preach. He sat in the Bowen pew, just back of the Beecher pew, in the morning; in the evening he arrived very late, and sat in a front pew, in the gallery, with Mr. Bowen and a friend who had waited in the hall for Mr. Lincoln’s arrival. Lincoln spent the afternoon at the Sunday-school mission, over in Five Points. As the superintendent of the mission was always casting about for somebody to talk to his ragamuffins, he asked the tall stranger if he would say a few words. When they reached the platform, the superintendent asked Lincoln by what name he should introduce him, to which Lincoln gave the answer, “Tell them Abraham Lincoln of Illinois,” which was answer enough. The meeting the next day in Cooper Institute was perhaps the most memorable assembly ever held in New York. William Cullen Bryant presided, Horace Greeley sat on Lincoln’s right, Peter Cooper close by. “No man,” said the Tribune, “since the days of Clay and Webster, spoke to a larger assemblage of the intellect and mental culture of our city. The speech was packed with reason, facts, but stripped bare of rhetorical flourish. Its keynote was, ‘Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it.'” Four morning newspapers reported the speech in full, and Greeley called him the Great Convincer, saying no man ever before made such an impression in his first appeal to a New York audience. That speech probably made Lincoln President.

By universal consent, Lincoln’s nomination in 1860 is one of the mysteries of politics. Every man of light and leading conceded Seward’s nomination in advance, and two-thirds of the delegates went to the convention pledged, while eight of the Illinois delegates were against Lincoln in his own State. The East could not believe that the sceptre could pass from their hands. Special trains from New York carried brilliant banners, and New York bands and drilled clubs marched and countermarched up and down the streets of Chicago. A great wooden wigwam set up for the occasion held 10,000 spectators. The placing of Seward in nomination was wildly applauded. But, to the surprise of everybody, the naming of Lincoln was the signal of an outburst of such enthusiasm as had never been known. Men held their breath as the votes were registered. Seward had 173½ against Lincoln’s 102. As noted in a former chapter, it has been thought that Horace Greeley’s standing out for Governor Bates of Missouri made possible the shifting of votes for another Western man. At all events, on the third ballot Lincoln was nominated. Now hundreds of correspondents began to write stories of this great unknown. The next day Wendell Phillips demanded from Boston: “Who is this county court advocate?” But there was a man in Washington who could speak intelligently concerning the great unknown—his name was Stephen A. Douglas.

In that hour Douglas knew the great mistake he had made. The Democratic convention of that year at Charleston split their party asunder; the Southerners clamoring for secession should Lincoln be elected, and nominating John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky; the Northerners standing fast for the Union and compromise, and nominating Stephen A. Douglas; while a “Constitutional Union” party of old-line Whigs nominated John Bell of Tennessee. Lincoln’s election was the signal for secession.

In all the subsequent turmoil, Douglas vigorously sustained the Union and the Constitution, both in Congress and before the people. When Sumter was fired upon, he hastened to pledge his influence to Lincoln as well as to the Union. “There are no neutrals in this war—only patriots and traitors.” Douglas hurried back to Illinois to unify the state for the Union; he had borrowed $80,000 for his campaign, and he staggered under the burden of debt. Also he had injured his constitution by excess, and burned the candle at both ends by overwork. But above all else was the thought that he had made the great mistake, and lost his place in history, in saying that he did not care whether a new State voted slavery up or voted slavery down. During his last sickness he murmured incessantly, “Failure—I have failed.” His last words were: “Telegraph to the President and let the columns move on.”

Douglas died on June 3, 1861, at the age of forty-eight. The lesson of his life is the danger of compromise, the peril of refusing adherence to the highest ideals of principle, and the failure of expediency and opportunism.

As Douglas’s star went down, Lincoln’s star began to climb the sky. It was Douglas himself who held Lincoln’s hat while he made his first inaugural address. By the irony of fate it was Chief Justice Taney of the Dred Scott Decision who inaugurated Lincoln into office, that Lincoln might later make Taney’s decision forever null and void.

And that no dramatic note might be wanted, both Taney and Douglas heard Lincoln plead with indescribable pathos, majesty and beauty, for the very Union whose existence their words had threatened. “Physically speaking, we [the North and South] cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends? Suppose you go to war? You cannot fight always, and after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you. In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it. I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriotic grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

But the great debate through arguments was ended. Henceforth, the appeal was to arms.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. The Battle of Principles was originally published in 1912.

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