LINCOLN’S OHIO SPEECHES
When Lincoln, in opening the Senatorial campaign of Illinois, declared that the Republican cause must be intrusted to its own undoubted friends “who do care for the result,” he displayed a much better understanding of the character and aims of his opponent than those who, not so well informed, desired the adoption of a different course. Had the wishes of Greeley and others prevailed, had Douglas been adopted by the Illinois Republicans, the party would have found itself in a fatal dilemma, No sooner was the campaign closed than Douglas, having entered on his tour through the South, began making speeches, apparently designed to pave his way to a nomination for President by the next Democratic National Convention. Realizing that he had lost ground by his anti-Lecomptonism, and especially by his Freeport doctrine, and having felt in the late campaign the hostility of the Buchanan Administration, he now sought to recover prestige by publishing more advanced opinions indirectly sustaining and defending slavery.
Hitherto he had declared he did not care whether slavery was voted down or voted up. He had said he would not argue the question whether slavery was right or wrong. He had adopted Taney’s assertion that the negro had no share in the Declaration of Independence. He had asserted that uniformity was impossible, but that freedom and slavery might abide together forever. But now that the election was over and a new term in the Senate secure, he was ready to conciliate pro-slavery opinion with stronger expressions. Hence, in a speech at Memphis, he cunningly linked together in argument unfriendly legislation, slavery, and annexation. He said: “Whenever a Territory has a climate, soil, and production making it the interest of the inhabitants to encourage slave property, they will pass a slave code.”
Wherever these preclude the possibility of slavery being profitable, they will not permit it. On the sugar plantations of Louisiana it was not a question between the white man and the negro, but between the negro and the crocodile. He would say that between the negro and the crocodile, he took the side of the negro; but between the negro and the white man, he would go for the white man. The Almighty has drawn the line on this continent, on the one side of which the soil must be cultivated by slave labor; on the other by white labor. That line did not run on 36 and 30’ [the Missouri Compromise line], for 36 and 30’ runs over mountains and through valleys. But this slave line, he said, meanders in the sugar-fields and plantations of the South, and the people living in their different localities and in the Territories must determine for themselves whether their “middle bed” is best adapted to slavery or free labor.
[Sidenote] Douglas, Memphis Speech, Nov.
29, 1858. Memphis “Eagle