The Galesburg Debate.


Wednesday, October 13, 1858.

The fifth debate between Douglas and Lincoln took place at Galesburgh, Knox county, on Thursday, 7th inst. The crowd in attendance was estimated at sixteen to eighteen thousand people,—much the largest audience that has attended any of the debates in the campaign. The champions were, as usual, escorted into town by large processions of their friends. An immense number of banners, the great majority of them for Lincoln, were displayed in the streets and carried in the processions. The day was cold and raw, but this did not seem to chill the enthusiasm of the people.

Douglas made the opening speech. It is similar to most of his efforts in this canvass. He glorified his "great principle" and claimed that he had defeated the Lecompton Constitution, and that he had won a victory in the passage of the English bill. – He was not in favor of making distinctions between free and slave states, as to the amount of population entitling them to admission; was willing to adopt the general rule that no territory should be admitted until it had population enough for a member of Congress, but until that rule was adopted, he would not make Kansas an exception by way of punishment for her obstinacy in demanding the right to make her own constitution. He objected to making the English bill a test of Democracy, and said the very members of Congress who passed it have abandoned it before the people. He charged Republicans and federal office holders with combining to get "my place." He talked as usual about a "sectional party," which could not proclaim its principles in the South, and said that Lincoln had to vary his speeches to suit the latitude in his own state. He repeated his belief that the Declaration of Independence meant only white men; and also repeated his "unfriendly legislation" preventive for slavery in the territories.

Mr. Lincoln began by remarking that a large portion of Judge D.'s speech had been previously delivered and put in print; and whatever reply he (Lincoln) was able to make to a large portion of it, had also been more than once made and published. He should not therefore pass over the entire ground traveled by the Judge, but should answer some of the points briefly. He answered the assertion that the negro was not intended to be included in the Declaration by its framers, by challenging anybody to show that any man had ever affirmed that he was not, until within three years past. Judge D. having said that Lincoln's friends in some counties did not call their meetings Republican meetings, Mr. L. reminded him that the call for the late Douglas meeting in Tazewell did not venture to use the word Democrat, and also that a call for a "National Democratic" meeting now was not considered as inviting Douglas or his friends to be present. He reminded the Judge that his (L.'s) speeches both in the North and South parts of the State were published in full, and could be read by all, so that it could do him no good to advance contradictory opinions in them to suit the latitude,—and that he had never attempted to do so. Speaking of the charge of sectionalism, he said that Judge D. could not proclaim the doctrine of our national democracy, and denounce kings and nobles, in Russia, and that at one time the people of Chicago would not let the Judge proclaim one of his favorite doctrines there. He did not think it was the true test of the soundness of a doctrine, that in some places people won't let you proclaim it.

In regard to Judge D.'s claim that the Compromise of 1850 included the principle of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, Mr. L. insisted that those compromises contained nothing of that principle at all. If it was anywhere in that compromise, it was in the parts if it organizing New Mexico and Utah. Those territories were to be admitted as states with or without slavery as they might choose in their constitutions, but nothing was said in the acts about slavery during their territorial existence, while Henry Clay (Douglas recognizing him as a leader) constantly declared that the old Mexican laws would control that question during such territorial existence, and would exclude slavery. How can that be used as a principle for declaring that during the territorial existence, as well as at the time of framing the constitution, the people; if you please, might have slaves if they wanted them? Those acts were part of a series of compromises; they had no feature of establishing a general principle; they did not lay down what was proposed as a regular policy for the territories,—only an agreement in this particular case to do in that way, because other things were done that were to be a compensation for it.

The Republicans were not in favor of making any odious distiuctions between the free and slave States, but there was this difference between them and Judge D., that the latter is not in favor of making any difference between slavery and liberty; that he keeps out of view the question of the preference in this country for free over slave institutions, and that he carefully excludes the thought that there is anything wrong in slavery. We make a brief extract here from Mr. L.'s remarks:
"Judge Douglas declares that if any community wants Slavery they have a right to have it. He can say that logically, if he says that there is no wrong in Slavery; but if you admit that there is a wrong in it, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong. He insists that upon the score of equality, the owners of slaves and owners of property — of horses and every other sort of property — should be alike and hold them alike in a new territory. That is perfectly logical, if the two species of property are alike and are equally founded in right. But if you admit that one of them is wrong, you cannot institute any equality between right and wrong. And from this difference of sentiment – the belief on the part of one that the institution is wrong, and a policy springing from that belief which looks to the arrest of the enlargement of that wrong; and this other sentiment, that it is no wrong, and a policy sprung rom that sentiment which will tolerate no idea of preventing that wrong from growing larger, and looks to there never being an end of it through all the existence of things,—arises the real difference between Judge Douglas and his friends, on the one hand, and the Republicans on the other. — Now, I confess myself as belonging to that class in the country who contemplate slavery as a moral, social and political evil, having due regard for its actual existence amongst us and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satisfactory way, and to all the constitutional obligations which have been thrown about it; but, nevertheless, desire a policy that looks to the prevention of it as a wrong, and looks hopefully to the time when as a wrong it may come to an end." [Great Applause.]

As to the combination between the National Democrats and Republicans, Mr. L. said he had no objection to the division in the Judge's party. He (D.) had got it up himself. But he defied the Judge to show any evidence that he (L.) had in any way promoted that division. Two years ago the opponents of Democratic party were divided between Fremont and Fillmore. "Any Democrat who remembers that division will remember also that he was at the time very glad of it, and then he will be able to see all there is between the National Democrats and the Republicans. What we now think of the two divisions if Democrats, you then thought of the Fremont and Fillmore divisions. That is all there is of it."

Mr. L. referred to the forged resolutions read by Douglas at Ottawa, and to Mr. D.'s promise at Freeport to investigate the question of their genuineness,—of which investigation he has as yet made no report. Mr. L. thought that an absolute forgery had been traced to Douglas, Harris and Lanphier in connection with that matter, and he objected to considering Douglas a competent witness to prove a combination between the Republicans and National Democrats, until his connexion with that affair was explained.

Mr. L. then referred to the Dred Scott decision, and its assertion that "the right of property in a slave is distinctly and expressly affirmed in the constitution." He argued that if this were true, nothing in the constitution or laws of any State can destroy the right of property in a slave,—and he insisted that the practical tendency of Judge D.'s course was to prepare the public mind for another decision to that effect. Mr. L. closed with some observations on the acquisition of new territory, urging the great importance of considering how any proposed acquisition may affect us in regard to slavery.

Douglas in his reply reiterated the complaint that Lincoln made one set of speeches at the North, and another at the South. He said that if Russia was a part of the American Republic, he (Judge D.) would maintain the same doctrines there as in the United States. He replied to the matter of the Ottawa forgery, insisting that it was a perfectly innocent mistake, and he grew quite indignant that anybody should imagine it was anything else. He repeated the same old twaddle he has used so often, about the "spot" on which the Aurora resolutions were adopted, and charged the Republicans in the northern part of the State with holding different principles from Lincoln's. He closed with again declaring that the Dred Scott decision didn't mean to introduce slavery into the States,—and complaining of the effort to "bring the Supreme Court into disrepute among the people."