The Freeport Discussion.


September 10, 1858.

In the recent discussion between Douglas and Lincoln at Freeport, certain questions were arranged by Lincoln's abolition body guard to be propounded by Lincoln to Douglas, as an offset to the questions presented to Lincoln by Douglas at Ottawa. These questions were got up with all the ingenuity and cunning that Lincoln's guardian committee could command, and were regarded by Lovejoy, Bross & Co., as stunners. As the republicans of this region have been busy in misrepresenting the manner in which Mr. Douglas answered these questions, we subjoin that part of the discussion that embodies Lincoln's interrogatories and Douglas' answers:

"Ladies and Gentlemen — The silence with which you have listened to Mr. Lincoln during his hour is creditable to this vast audience composed of men of various political parties. Nothing is more honorable to any large mass of people assembled for any fair discussion, than that kind and respectable attention that has yielded not only to your political friends, but to those who are opposed to you in politics.

I was glad that at last I have brought Mr. Lincoln to the conclusion that he had better define his position on certain political questions to which I called his attention at Ottawa. He there showed no disposition, no inclination to answer them. I did not present idle questions to him to answer merely for my gratification. I laid the foundation for those interrogatories by showing that they constituted the platform of the party whose nominee he is for the Senate. I did not presume that I had the right to catechise him as I saw proper, unless I showed that this party, or a majority of it, stood upon the platform and were in favor of the propositions on which my questions were based. I desired, simply to know, inasmuch as he had been nominated as the first, last, and only choice of his party, whether he concurred in the platform which that party had adopted for its government. In a few moments I will proceed to review the answers which he gave to these interrogatories; but in order to relieve his anxiety I will first respond those he presented to me. Mark you, he has not presented interrogatories which have ever received the sanction of the party with which I am acting, and hence he has no other foundation for them than his own curiosity. ("That's a fact.")

First, he desires to know if the people of Kansas should form a constitution by means entirely proper and unobjectional and ask for admission into the Union as a State, before they have the requisite population for a member of Congress, whether I would vote for that admission. Well, now, I regret exceedingly that he did not answer that interrogation himself before he put it to me, in order that we might understand, and not be left to infer, on which side he is. (Good good.) Mr. Trumbull, during the last session of congress, voted from the beginning to the end against the admission of Oregon, although a free State, because she had not the requisite population for a member of Congress. (That's it.) Mr. Trumbull would not consent, under any circumstances; to let a State, free or slave, come into the Union until it had the requisite population. As Mr. Trumbull is in the field, fighting for Mr. Lincoln, I would like to have Mr. Lincoln answer his own question and tell me whether he is fighting Trumbull on that issue or not. (Good, put it to him and cheers.) But I will answer his question. In reference to Kansas; it is my opinion, that as she has population enough to constitute a slave state, she has people enough for a free state. — (Cheers.) I will not make Kansas an exceptional case to the other states of the union. (Sound, and hear, hear.) I hold it to be a sound rule of universal application to require a territory to contain the requisite population for a member of Congress, before it is admitted as a state into the Union. I made that proposition in the Senate in 1856, and I renewed it during the last session, in a bill providing that no territory of the United States should form a constitution and apply for admission until it had the requisite population. On another occasion I proposed that neither Kansas, or any other territory, should be admitted until it had the requisite population. — Congress did not adopt any of my propositions containing this general rule, but did make an exception of Kansas. I will stand by that exception. (Cheers.) Either Kansas must come in as a free state, with whatever population she may have, or the rule must be applied to all other territories alike. (Cheers.) I therefore answer at once, that it having been decided that Kansas has people enough for a slave state, I hold that she has enough for a free state. ("Good and applause.) I hope Mr. Lincoln is satisfied with my answer; ("he ought to be," and cheers,) and now I would like to get his answer to his own interrogatory — whether or not he will vote to admit Kansas before she has the requisite population. ("Hit him again.") I want to know if he will vote to admit Oregon before it has the requisite population. — Mr. Trumbull will not, and the same reason that commits Mr. Trumbull against the admission of Oregon, commits him against Kansas, even if she should apply for admission as a free state. (You've got him and cheers.) If there is any sincerity, and truth in the arguments of Mr. Trumbull in the Senate against the admission of Oregon because she had not 93,120 people, although her population was larger than that Kansas, he stands pledged against the admission of Oregon and Kansas until they have 93,120 inhabitants. I would like Mr. Lincoln to answer this question. I would him to take his own medicine. (Laughter.) If he differs from Mr. Trumbull let him answer his arguments against the admission of Oregon, instead of poking questions at me. ("Right, right, good, laughter and cheers.)

The next question propounded by Mr. Lincoln is can the people of a territory in any lawful way against the wishes of any citizen of the United States; exclude slavery from their limits prior to the formation of a state constitution? I answer emphatically, as Mr. Lincoln has heard me answer a hundred times from the stump in Illinois, that in my opinion the people of Illinois can, by lawful means, exclude slavery from their limits prior to formation of a State Constitution. — (Enthusiastic applause.) Mr. Lincoln knew that I had answered that question over and over again. He heard me argue the Nebraska bill on that principle all over the state in 1851, in 1855, and in 1856, and he has no excuse for pretending to be in doubt as to my position on that question. It matters not which way the Supreme Court may hereafter decide as to the abstract question whether slavery may or may not go into a territory under the constitution, the people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations. (Right, right,) These 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 effectively prevent its introduction into their midst. If on the contrary, they are for it, their legislation will favor its extension. Hence, no matter what the decision of the Supreme Court may be on that abstract question, still the right of the people to make a slave territory or a free territory is perfect and complete under the Nebraska bill. I hope Mr. Lincoln deems my answer satisfactory on that point.

[Deacon Bross spoke.]

In this connection, I will notice the charge which he has introduced in relation to Mr. Chase's amendment. I tho't I chased that amendment out of Mr. Lincoln's brain at Ottawa; (laughter) but it seems that it still haunts his imagination, and he is not yet satisfied. I had supposed that he would be ashamed to press that question further. He is a lawyer, and has been a Member of Congress, and has occupied his time and amused you by telling about parliamentary proceedings. He ought to have known better than to try to palm off his miserable impositions upon this intelligent audience. ("Good," and cheers.) The Nebraska bill provided that the legislative power, and authority of the said territory, should extend to all rightful subjects of legislation consistent with the organic act and the Constitution of the United States. It did not make an exception as to slavery, but gave all power that it was possible for Congress to give, without violating the constitution to the territorial legislature, with now exception or limitation on the subject of slavery at all. The language of that bill which I have quoted, gave the full power and authority over the subject of slavery, affirmatively and negatively, to introduce or exclude it, so far as the constitution of the United States would admit. What more could Mr. Chase give his amendment? Nothing, he offered his amendment for the identical purpose for which Mr. Lincoln is using it, to enable demagogues in the country try and deceive the people. ("Good, hit him again" and cheers.

[Deacon Bross spoke.

His amendment was to this effect. — It provided that the Legislature should have the power to exclude slavery; and General Cass suggested "why not give the power to introduce as well as exclude?" The answer was they have the power already in the bill to do both. Chase was afraid his amendment would be adopted if he put the alternative proposition and so make it fair both ways, but would not yield. He offered it for the purpose of having it rejected. He offered it, as he has himself avowed over and over again, simply to make capital out of it for the stump. He expected that it would be capital for small politicians in the country and that they would make an effort to deceive the people with it, he was not mistaken, for Lincoln is carrying out the plan admirably. — ("Good, good.") Lincoln knows that the Nebraska bill, without Chase's amendment, gave all the power which the Constitution would permit. Could Congress confer any more? ("No, no.") Could Congress go beyond the constitution of the country? We gave all a full grant, with no exception in regard to slavery one way or the other. — We left that question as we left all others, to be decided by the people for themselves, just as they pleased. I will not occupy my time on this question. — I have argued it before all over Illinois. I have argued it in this beautiful city of Freeport; I have argued it in the North, the Sough, the East and the West, avow the same sentiments and the same principles. I have not been afraid to avow my sentiments up here for fear I would be trotted down into Egypt. (Cheers and laughter.)

The third question which Mr. Lincoln presented is, if the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that a State of this Union cannot exclude slavery from its own limits will I submit to it? I am amazed that Lincoln should ask such a question. ("A school boy knows better!") Yes, a school boy does know better. Mr. Lincoln's object is to cast an imputation upon the Supreme Court. He knows that there never was but one man in America, claiming any degree of intelligence or decency, who ever for a moment pretended such a thing. It is true that the Washington Union, in an article published on the 17th of last December, did put forth that doctrine, and I denounced the article on the floor of the Senate, in a speech which Mr. Lincoln now pretends was against the President. The Union had claimed that slavery had a right to go into the free States, and that any provision in the Constitution or laws of the free States to the contrary were null and void. I denounced it in the Senate, as I said before, and I was the first man who did. Lincoln's friends, Trumbull, and Seward and Hale, and Wilson, and the whole Black republican side of the Senate were silent. They left it to me to denounce it. (Cheers.) And what was the reply made to me on that occasion? Mr. Toombs of Georgia got up and undertook to lecture me on the ground that I ought to have deemed the article worthy of notice and ought not to have replied to it, that there was not one man woman or child south of the Potomac, in any slave State who did not repudiate any such pretension. Mr. Lincoln knows that that reply was made on the spot, and yet now he asks this question. He might as well ask me, suppose Mr. Lincoln should steal a horse would I sanction it; (laughter,) and it would be as genteel in me to ask him, in the event he stole a horse, what ought to be done with him. He casts an imputation upon the Supreme court of the United States by supposing that they would violate the Constitution of the United States. I tell him that such a thing is not possible. — (Cheers.) It would be an act of moral treason that no man on the bench could ever descend to. Mr. Lincoln himself would never in his partizan feelings so far forget what was right as be guilty of such an act. ("Good, good.")

The fourth question of Mr. Lincoln is, are you in favor of acquiring additional territory in disregard as to how such acquisition may effect the Union on the slavery question. This question is very ingeniously and cunningly put.

[Deacon Bross here spoke, sotto voce, — the reporter understood him to say, "Now we've got him."]

The Black Republican creed lays it down expressly, that under no circumstances shall we acquire any more territory unless slavery is first prohibited in the country. I ask Mr. Lincoln whether he is in favor of that proposition. — Are you addressing Mr. Lincoln) opposed to the acquisition of any more territory, under any circumstances, unless slavery is prohibited in it? That he does not like to answer. When I ask him whether he stands up to that article in the platform of his party, he turns, yankee fashion, and without answering it, asks me whether I am in favor of acquiring territory without regard to how it may affect the Union on the slavery question. (Good.) I answer that whenever it becomes necessary, in our growth and progress to acquire more territory, that I am in favor of it, without reference to the question of slavery, and when we have acquired it; I will leave the people free to do as they prefer. [Here Deacon Bross spoke, the reporter believes that he said, "That's bold." It was said solemnly.] It is idle to tell me or you that we have territory enough. Our fathers supposed that we had enough when our territory extended to the Missippi river, but a few years' growth and expansion satisfied them that we needed more, and the Louisiana territory, from the west branch of the Mississippi, to the British possessions, was acquired. Then we acquired Oregon, then California and New Mexico. We have enough now for the present, but this is a young and growing nation. It swarms as often as a hive of bees, and as now swarms are turned out each year, there must be hives in which they can gather and make their honey. (Good.) In less than fifteen years, if the same progress that has distinguished this country for the last fifteen years continues, every foot of vacant land between this and the Pacific ocean, owned by the United States, will be occupied. Will you not continue to increase at the end of fifteen years as well as now? — I tell you, increase, and multiply; and expand, is the law of this nation's existence. (Good) You cannot limit this great republican by mere boundary lines, saying, "thus far shalt thou go, and no further." Any one of you gentlemen might as well say to a son twelve years old that he is big enough, and must not grow any larger, and in order to prevent his growth put a hoop around him to keep him to his present size. What would be the result? Either the hoop must burst and be rent asunder, or the child must die. So it would be with this great nation. With our natural increase growing with a rapidity unknown in any other part of the globe, with the tide of emigration that is fleeing from despotism in the old world to seek a refuge in our own, there is a constant torrent pouring into this country that requires more land, more territory upon which to settle, and just as fast as our interests and our destiny require additional territory in the north in the south, or on the islands of the ocean, I am for it, and when we acquire it will leave the people according to the Nebraska bill, free to do as they please on the subject of slavery and every other question. (Good, good; hurrah for Douglas.)