Douglas and Lincoln at Ottawa — The "Dead Lion" Skins the "Living Dog."


August 27, 1858.

On Saturday, August 21st. Douglas and Lincoln according to previous notice, met for the first time during the canvass in joint discussion. The number present is estimated at twelve thousand. Mr. Douglas left the cars about three miles west of town, and was met and escorted by an immense procession, bearing flags, banners, mottoes, &c., to the Geiger House, where he was welcomed in a neat address by Hon. W. H. W. Cushman. Mr. Lincoln came in on the cars and was escorted to a hotel by his friends. After dinner an immense concourse of people gathered around the stand to hear the discussion. The time was equally divided. Douglas made an opening speech of an hour, followed by Lincoln in a speech of an hour and a half, when Douglas closed the discussion in a half hour speech.

In opening the discussion, Mr. Douglas reverted to the fact, that prior to 1854, the two great parties then organized in opposition to each other — the whig and democratic parties — were both national and patriotic. Old line whigs as well as democrats, could proclaim their principles in Louisiana and Massachusetts alike. Whig principles were not bounded by the line of the free and slave states, but were proclaimed wherever the Constitution ruled. So it was and so it is with the great democratic party. That when the question of slavery in the territories came up in 1850, the Whig and Democratic parties united on a common platform, and jointly adopted the compromise measures of 1850 as the correct basis for adjusting the slavery question. In 1852 the two parties, in their national Conventions, fully indorsed the adjustment of 1850. Thus up to 1854, when the Nebraska bill was brought before congress for the purpose of carrying out the principles which up to that time both parties had approved, there had been no division in the country in regard to that principle, except the opposition of the abolitionists.

In 1854, said Mr. Douglas, Mr. Abraham Lincoln and Mr. Trumbull entered into an arrangement, one with the other, to dissolve the old Whig party in on the one hand, and the Old Democratic party on the other, and to collect the members into an Abolition party under the name and disguise of a Republican party. — (Laughter and cheers, hurrah for Douglas.) The terms of that arrangement between Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Trumbull, have been published to the world by Mr. Lincoln's special friend, James H. Matheny, Esq., and they were that Lincoln should have Shield's place in the U.S. senate, and that Trumbull should have my seat when my time expired. (Great laughter.) Lincoln went to work to abolitionize the old Whig party all over the state, pretending he was as good Whig as ever; (laugher) and Trumbull went to work in his part of the state preaching Abolitionism in its milder and lighter form, to abolitionize the Democratic party, and bring old Democrats handcuffed into the Abolition camp. (Hurrah for Douglas and cheers.)

Mr. Douglas then reverted to the proceedings of the first mass Republican State Convention, which met at Springfield in 1854, for the purpose of organizing the Republican party on the ruins of the old Whig party, and read what purported to be a platform of principles adopted by that convention. That platform (the same published in another column,) committed the republican party to the repeal of the fugitive slave law; to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia; to prohibit the admission of any more slave states into the Union; to prohibit slavery in all the territories; and to resist the acquisition of any more territories unless slavery shall have been prohibited therein. And furthermore, the platform pledged the republican party to support no man for office who is not positively and fully committed to these principles.

As Mr. Douglas read the resolutions embodying the above platform, each resolution was greeted with cheers from the republicans. Mr. Douglas then said: "Now, gentlemen you republicans have cheered every one of these propositions, (good, and cheers) and yet I venture to say you cannot get Mr. Lincoln to come out and say he is in favor of each one of them. (Laughter and applause. Hit him again.)."

Mr. Douglas then re-stated the propositions contained in the above republican platform, and appended to each proposition the interogatory to Mr. Lincoln, whether he stands to-day, as he did in 1854, in favor of that article, and of each article of that creed? He claimed that he had a right to an answer to these questions. The affirmative cheers of Mr. Lincoln's friends were not sufficient. He required an answer from Mr. Lincoln himself. He said, "I ask Abraham Lincoln to answer these questions, in order that when I trot him down to lower Egypt I may put the same questions to him. (Enthusiastic applause.)"

Mr. Douglas then made a running reference to his own political history in connection with that of Mr. Lincoln. There had been many points of sympathy between them in their early struggles in a strange land. While he, (Douglas) was a school teacher in Winchester, Lincoln was a flourishing grocery keeper in the town of Salem, &c. Mr. Douglas proceeded to review briefly, the leading points advanced in his former speeches, and thus closed his hour.


Mr. Lincoln opened his speech by a floundering attempt to answer some of Douglas's charges. He denied that any arrangement was made in 1854, by which he was to have Shields' place. He said: "Well, all I have to say is, that Judge Douglas cannot prove that, because it is not true nor nothing like it — thus raising a question of veracity between himself and his quondam friend, James H. Matheny, who has publicly made the charge. As regarded the resolutions read by Mr. Douglas, he said: "I never had anything to do with them, and I think Trumbull never had, and Judge Douglas cannot show that we ever did have, either one of us.

There was a call for a convention to form a Republican party in Springfield. I think my friend Lovejoy, who is with me on the stand; had a hand in it. I think that is so, and I think that he will remember correctly, that he tried to get me into it, and I would not do it. Well, I believe it is also true, as I went from Springfield when the Convention was in session. I did not remain, but went to the Tazewell court. They had placed my name, without any of my authority, on a committee, and they wrote to me to attend the Convention, and I refused to do it."

In the above declaration, Mr. Lincoln declined the honor of being one of the "daddies" of the Republican party, and endeavors to cast the entire odium of the act of organizing the party upon his friend, Mr. Lovejoy. Virtuous Lincoln! — he only swallowed his "friend, Lovejoy's" platform afterwards.

And the above is the only response Mr. Lincoln could make to the plain and pertinent questions propounded to him by Mr. Douglas — questions which the people as well as Mr. Douglas, require to be answered by Mr. Lincoln He dare not answer in the negative, for that would be cutting loose from his own party, the party which he says was founded by his "friend Lovejoy" — and he dare not answer in the affirmative, for that would add, if possible, to the odium of his present position. He was driven completely to the wall.

After a few loose and floundering observations in reference to the charge of selling out the old Whig party to the Abolitionists, Mr. Lincoln proceeded to occupy his time in reading from a speech delivered by him in Peoria in 1854, to show that he did not (at least at that time,) entertain the idea of the social equality of the negro, &c. He then proceeded to argue at some length, on the defensive, in reference to his slavery extermination and negro equality platform, as set forth in his Springfield and Chicago speeches, and endeavored to evade the logical deductions to be drawn from the plain language of his platform. He had no purpose to interfere with the institution of slavery in these states where it exists. He had no right or inclinations to do so. There is a physical difference which would probably forbid their living together in equality. "But," said Mr. Lincoln "I hold that because of all this, there is no reason at all furnished, why the negro after all, is not entitled to all that the Declaration of Independence holds out."

The rest of Mr. Lincoln's remarks were chiefly in explanation of his doctrine of "a house divided against itself," &c., and a lengthy discussion of the probability of a second Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court, making slavery legal in all the states. His attempted explanation of his slavery extermination platform was especially lame, weak and inefficient. He admitted that slavery has existed in one half of the Union, some eighty years without danger of the ‘house falling,’ but argued that no danger — no necessity for the states to become all the one thing or all the other — has heretofore existed, from the fact that, up to this time, slavery has remained in the attitude in which our father placed it; that the necessity which now exists for the States to "become all slave or all free," arises from the effort, which Mr. Lincoln assumes is being made, to perpetuate and extend slavery.

Upon the miserable sophism, then, that slavery is about to be made national, and perpetuated, Mr. Lincoln advices the necessity of a counter sectional movement to make the states "all free," And this in the face of his admission that he has no right to meddle with the institutions of the slave states. The constitution has left this question with each state. If the people of a new state, or an old one, adopt slavery it is their right under the constitution to do so; and their doing so does not create the neccessity for Mr. Lincoln to preach a war of extermination against their domestic institution.

If the precepts of Washington's Farewell Address are followed, and the people of the states and territories are permitted, as is their right under the constitution, to form and regulate their own domestic institutions to suit themselves, for eighty years to come, as during eighty years past, no necessity will arise for the states to "become all slave or all free" — "all one thing or all the other."

Mr. Lincoln closed his speech by attempting to wring in the authority of Mr. Clay in support of his (Lincoln's) construction of the Declaration of Independence, as including the negro. He then gave place to Mr. Douglas, leaving thirteen minutes of his time unexpired.


The extreme length to which this synopsis of the discussion has extended renders it necessary that our abstract of Mr. Douglas' reply should be brief and for this reason we shall publish it in full hereafter. Although occupying but half an hour, Mr. Douglas' reply was scathing and crushing. He made the "woolfly" at every clip, and as an intellectual effort, as a model of terse argument, crushing facts and cutting invective, the speech will long be remembered; especially by Mr. Lincoln. He grasped briefly, but with power, every point made by Mr. Lincoln, and completely refuted them all; driving that unfortunate gentleman completely to the wall. Such was the effect of Douglas' giant blows, that twice Mr. Lincoln had to be reprimanded and pulled down on the stand by his friends. — At the conclusion of Douglas' reply the shouts of the multitude were tremendious and two-thirds of the meeting surrounded him and escorted him in triumph to this quarters.

The correspondent of the Chicago Times thus describes the finale of the affair as regarded Lincoln:

"Lincoln in the meantime seemed to have been paralyzed. He stood upon the stage looking wildly at the people as they surrounded the triumphant Douglas, and, with mouth wide open, he could not find a friend to say one word to him in his distress. It was a delicate point to republicans who had witnessed his utter defeat, and who knew how severely he felt it, to offer him condolence, or bid him hope for better success again. The only thing they could say was that Lincoln ought not to travel round with Douglas, and had better not meet him any more. When Douglas and the Democrats had left the square, Lincoln essayed to descend from the stage, but his limbs refused to do their office. In this extremity, the Republican Marshal called half a dozen men, who, lifting Lincoln in their arms, carried him along. By some mismanagement the men selected for this office happened to be very short in stature, and the consequence was, that while Lincoln's head and shoulders towered above theirs, his feet dragged on the ground. Such an exhibition as the "toting" of Lincoln from the square to his lodgings was never seen at Ottowa before."