Abraham Lincoln (18091865). Political Debates Between Lincoln and Douglas. 1897.
Fourth Joint Debate at Charleston
Extract from Mr. Trumbulls Speech Made at Alton, Referred to by Mr. Lincoln in His Opening at Charleston
(September 18, 1858)
I COME now to another extract from a speech of Mr. Douglas, made at Beardstown, and reported in the Missouri Republican. This extract has reference to a statement made by me at Chicago, wherein I charged that an agreement had been entered into by the very persons now claiming credit for opposing a constitution not submitted to the people, to have a constitution formed and put in force without giving the people of Kansas an opportunity to pass upon it. Without meeting this charge, which I substantiated by a reference to the record, my colleague is reported to have said:
For when this charge was once made in a much milder form, in the Senate of the United States, I did brand it as a lie in the presence of Mr. Trumbull, and Mr. Trumbull sat and heard it thus branded, without daring to say it was true. I tell you he knew it to be false when he uttered it at Chicago; and yet he says he is going to cram the lie down his throat until he should cry enough. The miserable, craven-hearted wretch! he would rather have both ears cut off than to use that language in my presence, where I could call him to account. I see the object is to draw me into a personal controversy, with the hope thereby of concealing from the public the enormity of the principles to which they are committed. I shall not allow much of my time in this canvass to be occupied by these personal assaults; I have none to make on Mr. Lincoln; I have none to make on Mr. Trumbull; I have none to make on any other political opponent. If I cannot stand on my own public record, on my own private and public character as history will record it, I will not attempt to rise by traducing the character of other men. I will not make a blackguard of myself by imitating the course they have pursued against me. I have no charges to make against them.
This is a singular statement, taken altogether. After indulging in language which would disgrace a loafer in the filthiest purlieus of a fish-market, he winds up by saying that he will not make a blackguard of himself, that he has no charges to make against me. So I suppose he considers that to say of another that he knew a thing to be false when he uttered it, that he was a miserable, craven-hearted wretch, does not amount to a personal assault, and does not make a man a blackguard. A discriminating public will judge of that for themselves; but as he says he has no charges to make on Mr. Trumbull, I suppose politeness requires I should believe him. At the risk of again offending this mighty man of war, and losing something more than my ears, I shall have the audacity to again read the record upon him, and prove and pin upon him, so that he cannot escape it, the truth of every word I uttered at Chicago. You, fellow-citizens, are the judges to determine whether I do this. My colleague says he is willing to stand on his public record. By that he shall be tried; and if he had been able to discriminate between the exposure of a public act by the record, and a personal attack upon the individual, he would have discovered that there was nothing personal in my Chicago remarks, unless the condemnation of himself by his own public record is personal; and then you must judge who is most to blame for the torture his public record inflicts upon him, he for making, or I for reading it after it was made. As an individual, I care very little about Judge Douglas one way or the other. It is his public acts with which I have to do, and if they condemn, disgrace, and consign him to oblivion, he has only himself, not me, to blame.
Now, the charge is that there was a plot entered into to have a constitution formed for Kansas, and put in force, without giving the people an opportunity to pass upon it, and that Mr. Douglas was in the plot. This is as susceptible of proof by the record as is the fact that the State of Minnesota was admitted into the Union at the last session of Congress.
On the 25th of June, 1856, a bill was pending in the United States Senate to authorize the people of Kansas to form a constitution and come into the Union. On that day Mr. Toombs offered an amendment which he intended to propose to the bill which was ordered to be printed, and, with the original bill and other amendments, recommended to the Committee on Territories, of which Mr. Douglas was Chairman. This amendment of Mr. Toombs, printed by order of the Senate, and a copy of which I have here present, provided for the appointment of commissioners who were to take a census of Kansas, divide the Territory into election districts, and superintend the election of delegates to form a constitution, and contains a clause in the 18th section which I will read to you, requiring the constitution which should be formed to be submitted to the people for adoption. It reads as follows:
That the following propositions be and the same are hereby offered to the said Convention of the people of Kansas, when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection, which, if accepted by the Convention, and ratified by the people at the election for the adoption of the constitution, shall be obligatory on the United States, and upon the said State of Kansas, etc.
It has been contended by some of the newspaper press that this section did not require the constitution which should be formed to be submitted to the people for approval, and that it was only the land propositions which were to be submitted. You will observe the language is that the propositions are to be ratified by the people at the election for the adoption of the constitution. Would it have been possible to ratify the land propositions at the election for the adoption of the constitution, unless such an election was to be held?
When one thing is required by a contract or law to be done, the doing of which is made dependent upon and cannot be performed without the doing of some other thing, is not that other thing just as much required by the contract or law as the first? It matters not in what part of the Act, nor in what phraseology the intention of the Legislature is expressed, so you can clearly ascertain what it is; and whenever that intention is ascertained from an examination of the language used, such intention is part of and a requirement of the law. Can any candid, fair-minded man read the section I have quoted, and say that the intention to have the constitution which should be formed submitted to the people for their adoption, is not clearly expressed? In my judgment there can be no controversy among honest men upon a proposition so plain as this. Mr. Douglas has never pretended to deny, so far as I am aware, that the Toombs amendment, as originally introduced, did require a submission of the constitution to the people. This amendment of Mr. Toombs was referred to the Committee of which Mr. Douglas was Chairman, and reported back by him on the 30th of June, with the words, And ratified by the people at the election for the adoption of the constitution stricken out. I have here a copy of the bill as reported back by Mr. Douglas, to substantiate the statement I make. Various other alterations were also made in the bill, to which I shall presently have occasion to call attention. There was no other clause in the original Toombs bill requiring a submission of the constitution to the people than the one I have read, and there was no clause whatever, after that was struck out, in the bill, as reported back by Judge Douglas, requiring a submission. I will now introduce a witness whose testimony cannot be impeached, he acknowledging himself to have been one of the conspirators and privy to the fact about which he testifies.
Senator Bigler, alluding to the Toombs bill, as it was called, and which, after sundry amendments, passed the Senate, and to the propriety of submitting the constitution which should be formed to a vote of the people, made the following statement in his place in the Senate, December 9th 1857. I read from part 1, Congressional Globe of last session, paragraph 21:
I was present when that subject was discussed by senators, before the bill was introduced, and the question was raised and discussed whether the constitution, when formed, should be submitted to a vote of the people. It was held by the most intelligent on the subject that in view of all the difficulties surrounding that Territory, the danger of any experiment at that time of a popular vote, it would be better that there should be no such provision in the Toombs bill; and it is my understanding, in all the intercourse I had, that that Convention would make a constitution and send it here, without submitting it to the popular vote.
In speaking of this meeting again on the 21st of December, 1857 (Congressional Globe, same vol., page 113), Senator Bigler said:
Nothing was farther from my mind than to allude to any social or confidential interview. The meeting was not of that character. Indeed, it was semi-official, and called to promote the public good. My recollection was clear that I left the conference under the impression that it had been deemed best to adopt measures to admit Kansas as a State through the agency of one popular election, and that for delegates to the Convention. This impression was the stronger, because I thought the spirit of the bill infringed upon the doctrine of non-intervention, to which I had great aversion; but with the hope of accomplishing great good, and as no movement had been made in that direction in the Territory, I waived this objection, and concluded to support the measure. I have a few items of testimony as to the correctness of these impressions, and with their submission I shall be content. I have before me the bill reported by the Senator from Illinois, on the 7th of March, 1856, providing for the admission of Kansas as a State, the third section of which reads as follows:
That the following propositions be, and the same are hereby offered to the said Convention of the people of Kansas, when formed, for their free acceptance or rejection; which, if accepted by the Convention and ratified by the people at the election for the adoption of the constitution, shall be obligatory upon the United States, and upon the said State of Kansas.
The bill read in place by the Senator from Georgia, on the 25th of June, and referred to the Committee on Territories, contained the same section, word for word. Both these bills were under consideration at the conference referred to; but, sir, when the Senator from Illinois reported the Toombs bill to the Senate, with amendments, the next morning, it did not contain that portion of the third section which indicated to the Convention that the Constitution should be approved by the people. The words, and ratified by the people at the election for the adoption of the constitution had been stricken out.
I am now seeking to prove that Douglas was in the plot to force a constitution upon Kansas without allowing the people to vote directly upon it. I shall attend to that branch of the subject by and by. My object now is to prove the existence of the plot, what the design was, and I ask if I have not already done so. Here are the facts:
The introduction of a bill on the 7th of March, 1856, providing for the calling of a Convention in Kansas to form a State constitution, and providing that the Constitution should be submitted to the people for adoption; an amendment to this bill, proposed by Mr. Toombs, containing the same requirement; a reference of these various bills to the Committee on Territories; a consultation of senators to determine whether it was advisable to have the constitution submitted for ratification; the determination that it was not advisable; and a report of the bill back to the Senate next morning, with the clause providing for the submission stricken out. Could evidence be more complete to establish the first part of the charge I have made of a plot having been entered into by somebody, to have a constitution adopted without submitting it to the people?
Now, for the other part of the charge, that Judge Douglas was in this plot, whether knowingly or ignorantly is not material to my purpose. The charge is that he was an instrument cooperating in the project to have a constitution formed and put into operation, without affording the people an opportunity to pass upon it. The first evidence to sustain the charge is the fact that he reported back the Toombs amendment, with the clause providing for the submission stricken out. This, in connection with his speech in the Senate on the 9th of December, 1857 (Congressional Globe, part 1, page 14), wherein he stated:
That during the last Congress, I [Mr. Douglas] reported a bill from the Committee on Territories, to authorize the people of Kansas to assemble and form a constitution for themselves. Subsequently the Senator from Georgia (Mr. Toombs) brought forward a substitute for my bill, which, after having been modified by him and myself in consultation, was passed by the Senate.
This of itself ought to be sufficient to show that my colleague was an instrument in the plot to have a constitution put in force without submitting it to the people, and to forever close his mouth from attempting to deny. No man can reconcile his acts and former declarations with his present denial, and the only charitable conclusion would be that he was being used by others without knowing it. Whether he is entitled to the benefit of even this excuse, you must judge on a candid hearing of the facts I shall present. When the charge was first made in the United States Senate, by Mr. Bigler, that my colleague had voted for an Enabling Act which put a Government in operation without submitting the constitution to the people, my colleague (Congressional Globe, last session, part 1, page 24) stated:
I will ask the Senator to show me an intimation from any one member of the Senate, in the whole debate on the Toombs bill, and in the Union from any quarter, that the constitution was not to be submitted to the people. I will venture to say that on all sides of the chamber it was so understood at the time. If the opponents of the bill had understood it was not, they would have made the point on it; and if they had made it, we should certainly have yielded to it, and put in the clause. That is a discovery made since the President found out that it was not safe to take it for granted that that would be done which ought in fairness to have been done.
I knew at the time this statement was made, that I had urged the very objection to the Toombs bill two years before, that it did not provide for the submission of the constitution. You will find my remarks, made on the 2nd of July, 1856, in the appendix to the Congressional Globe of that year, page 179, urging this very objection. Do you ask why I did not expose him at the time? I will tell you: Mr. Douglas was then doing good service against the Lecompton iniquity. The Republicans were then engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with the National Democracy to prevent the bringing of Kansas into the Union as a Slave State against the wishes of its inhabitants, and of course I was unwilling to turn our guns from the common enemy to strike down an ally. Judge Douglas, however, on the same day, and in the same debate, probably recollecting, or being reminded of, the fact, that I had objected to the Toombs bill when pending, that it did not provide for the submission of the constitution to the people, made another statement which is to be found in the same volume of the Congressional Globe, page 22, in which he says:
That the bill was silent on the subject is true, and my attention was called to that about the time it was passed; and I took the fair construction to be, that powers not delegated were reserved, and that of course the constitution would be submitted to the people.
Whether this statement is consistent with the statement just before made, that had the point been made it would have been yielded to, or that it was a new discovery, you will determine; for if the public records do not convict and condemn him, he may go uncondemned, so far as I am concerned. I make no use here of the testimony of Senator Bigler to show that Judge Douglas must have been privy to the consultation held at his house, when it was determined not to submit the constitution to the people, because Judge Douglas denies it, and I wish to use his own acts and declarations, which are abundantly sufficient for my purpose.
I come to a piece of testimony which disposes of all these various pretenses which have been set up for striking out of the original Toombs proposition the clause requiring a submission of the constitution to the people, and shows that it was not done either by accident, by inadvertence, or because it was believed that, the bill being silent on the subject, the Constitution would necessarily be submitted to the people for approval. What will you think, after listening to the facts already presented, to show that there was a design with those who concocted the Toombs bill, as amended, not to submit the Constitution to the people, if I now bring before you the amended bill as Judge Douglas reported it back, and show the clause of the original bill requiring submission, was not only struck out, but that other clauses were inserted in the bill putting it absolutely out of the power of the Convention to submit the constitution to the people for approval, had they desired to do so? If I can produce such evidence as that, will you not all agree that it clinches and establishes forever all I charged at Chicago, and more too?
I propose now to furnish that evidence. It will be remembered that Mr. Toombss bill provided for holding an election for delegates to form a Constitution under the supervision of commissioners to be appointed by the President, and in the bill as reported back by Judge Douglas, these words, not to be found in the original bill, are inserted at the close of the 11th section, viz:
And until the complete execution of this Act no other election shall be held in said Territory.
This clause put it out of the power of the Convention to refer to the people for adoption; it absolutely prohibited the holding of any other election than that for the election of delegates, till that act was completely executed, which would not have been until Kansas was admitted as a State, or at all events till her constitution was fully prepared and ready for submission to Congress for admission. Other amendments reported by Judge Douglas to the original Toombs bill, clearly show that the intention was to enable Kansas to become a State without any further action than simply a resolution of admission. The amendment reported by Mr. Douglas, that until the next Congressional apportionment, the said State shall have one representative, clearly shows this, no such provision being contained in the original Toombs bill. For what other earthly purpose could the clause to prevent any other election in Kansas, except that of delegates, till it was admitted as a State, have been inserted, except to prevent a submission of the Constitution, when formed, to the people?
The Toombs bill did not pass in the exact shape in which Judge Douglas reported it. Several amendments were made to it in the Senate. I am now dealing with the action of Judge Douglas as connected with that bill, and speak of the bill as he recommended it. The facts I have stated in regard to this matter appear upon the records, which I have here present to show to any man who wishes to look at them. They establish beyond the power of controversy, all the charges I have made, and show that Judge Douglas was made use of as an instrument by others, or else knowingly was a party to the scheme to have a government put in force over the people of Kansas, without giving them an opportunity to pass upon it. That others high in position in the so-called Democratic party were parties to such a scheme is confessed by Governor Bigler; and the only reason why the scheme was not carried, and Kansas long ago forced into the Union as a Slave State, is the fact that the Republicans were sufficiently strong in the House of Representatives to defeat the measure.