The Debate at Freeport

1

September 1, 1858.

The debate at Freeport was attended, according to the Rock Island Commercial, by 20,000 people. A special train from Amboy, Dixon and Pelo, numbered twelve cars crowded full--the Galena train had eight cars, and the Winnebago train sixteen cars, with over one thousand persons!

Judge Douglas reached Freeport the night before, and was received by a procession of 75 torches. Lincoln arrived on the Illinois Central train, and was saluted by the cannon, received by thousands of Republicans, and after an address of welcome by Hon. T. J. Turner, of Freeport, was escorted to the Brewster House, amid the most hearty cheering. Three times was Mr. Lincoln compelled to "show himself" upon the balcony, and gratify the enthusiastic multitude with a few appropriate remarks.

At two o'clock the debate began. Mr. Lincoln led off by replying to the interrogatories put by Mr. Douglas at Ottawa, as follows:
Question 1. "I desire to know whether Lincoln, today, stands as he did in 1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the fugitive slave law?"
Answer. I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of the unconditional repeal of the fugitive slave law. [Cries of "Good," "Good."]

Q. 2. "I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged today, as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more slave States into the Union, even if the people want them?"
A. I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more slave States into the Union.

Q. 3. "I want to know whether he stands pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union with such a Constitution as the people of that state may see fit to make?"
A. I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new State into the Union, with such a Constitution as the people of that State may see fit to make. [Cries of "good, good."]

Q. 4. "I want to know whether he stands, today, pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia?"
A. I do not stand, today, pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

Q. 5. "I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to the prohibition of the slave trade between the different States?"
A. I do not stand pledged to the prohibition of the slave trade between the different States.

Q. 6. "I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit slavery I all the territories of the United States, South as well as North of the Missouri Compromise line?"
A. I am impliedly, if not expressly, pledged to a belief in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States Territories. [Great applause.]

Q. 7. "I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to the acquisition of any new territory unless slavery is first prohibited therein?"
A. I am not generally opposed to honest acquisition of territory; and, in any given case, I would or would not oppose such acquisition, accordingly as I might think such acquisition would or would not agitate the slavery question among our eyes. [Cries of good, good.]

Now, my friends, it will be perceived upon an examination of these questions and answers, that so far, I have only answered that I was not pledged to this, that or the other. The Judge has not framed his interrogatories, to ask me anything more than this, and I have answered I in strict accordance with them, and have answered truly that I am not pledged at all upon any of the points to which I have answered. But I am not disposed to hang upon the exact form of his interrogatory. I am rather disposed to take up some of these questions, and state what I really think upon them.

Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to give his views upon the several points presented. He would not meddle with the present fugitive law, because the South is satisfied with it, although practically inoperative.

He would keep slavery out of the Territories, and thus never be called to vote upon the reception of a slave State; but, if after a Territory had been kept free; it should present a pro-slavery constitution, (a moral impossibility,) he would vote for its admission.

He believed Congress had the power, and with the consent of the people, he would be in favor of exercising the power, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and in the language of Henry Clay, "Sweep from the Capital that foul blot upon our nation."

In reference to the fifth--if he thought Congress had the power of abolishing the inter-slave trade, he would still be guided in the matter by expediency.

In reference to the remaining points, he was upon the record.

Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to "trot out" Mr. Douglas, by propounding the following questions:
1. If the people of Kansas shall, by means entirely unobjectionable, 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--to wit, 93,000--will you vote to admit them?

2. Can the people of a United States Territory in any legal way, against the will of one citizen, exclude slavery from their limits, previous to the formation of a State Constitution?

3. If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that the 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?

4. Are you in favor of acquiring additional Territory in disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the slavery question?

Mr. Lincoln then consumed the remainder of the hour in exposing Mr. Douglas' glaring and unparalleled forgery in attempting to get rid of the resolutions of a school house meeting in Kane county, in 1854, two years before the organization of the Republican party, as the Republican platform of 1856, and arranging Douglas for voting against Chase's amendment to the Nebraska expressly authorizing the people to exclude slavery.

Mr. Douglas then occupied his hour and a half, but refused to meet Mr. Lincoln upon the platform adopted by the Convention which put Mr. Lincoln in nomination, or upon the Philadelphia platform, but insisted upon it that he should be held by all the resolutions which had been passed at the various local gatherings over the northern part of the State. Such a course of trifling will not commend him to the honest thinker.

The Republican party of Illinois is composed of men of every shade of opinion, agreeing on one common point--opposition to slavery. To make this opposition effectual, the ultra on both sides forego their peculiar views on minor points and meet in middle ground, and the platform then and there put forth, is the one upon which their candidates are expected to stand, and Mr. Douglas shows his weakness as well as dishonesty, by dodging its discussion.

Mr. D. replied to Lincoln's questions:
1st. He would admit Kansas with her present population, or make a general rule excluding all Territories without a population of 93,000.

2nd. He thought people of any Territory could exclude slavery before becoming a State.

3rd. Mr. Douglas would resist the decision of the Supreme Court should it decide that a State cannot exclude slavery.

4th. He was in favor of acquiring Territory whenever we wanted it, without regard to the question of slavery.

Mr. D. here retracts what he said in Chicago. On the 9th of July he declared that "private opinion must yield to the adjudication of the Supreme Court." "I respect," he said, "the decision of that august tribunal; I shall bow in deference to it."

And at Bloomington he said, "I have no issue to make with the Supreme Court, I have no crusade to preach against that august body. I have no warfare to make against it. I receive the final decision of the Judges of that Court, when pronounced, as the final adjudication of all questions within their jurisdiction."

Mr. Douglas evidently adapts his speeches to the section of the State he is in, taking it for granted that his followers in Egypt cannot or will not read the anti slavery sentiments he may avow in the north.

Mr. Lincoln in his reply utterly demolished Mr. Douglas, and exposed his sophisms, his double dealing, and his cowardice so fully, that the friends of Douglas slunk away--glad the day was over, sorry it had ever come. No more was heard of them that day while the Republicans held rousing meetings during the remainder of the afternoon and evening.