“And when the vote came to be taken—for in England it is customary for audiences to express their decision on the subject under discussion—you would have thought it was a tropical thunder-storm that swept through the hall as the Ayes were thundered, while the Nays were an insignificant and contemptible minority. It had all gone on our side, and such enthusiasm I never saw.”
It has been repeatedly stated, and to this day is generally believed,—is so stated in several of Mr. Lincoln’s biographies, I believe,—that Mr. Beecher went to England at the President’s request, and for the purpose of making a speaking tour. The best answer is that given by Mr. Beecher himself.
“It has been asked,” said he, “whether I was sent by the government. The government took no stock in me at that time. I had been pounding Lincoln in the earlier years of the war, and I don’t believe there was a man down there, unless it was Mr. Chase, who would have trusted me with anything. At any rate, I went on my own responsibility.”
But in referring to Abolition orators, and especially orators whose experience it was to encounter mobs, the writer desires to pay a tribute to one of them whose name he does not even know.
A meeting that was called to organize an Anti-Slavery society in New York City was broken up by a mob. All of those in attendance made their escape except one negro. He was caught and his captors thought it would be a capital joke to make him personify one of the big Abolitionists. He was lifted to the platform and directed to imagine himself an Anti-Slavery leader and make an Abolition speech. The fellow proved to be equal to the occasion. He proceeded to assert the right of his race to the privileges of human beings with force and eloquence. His hearers listened with amazement, and possibly with something like admiration, until, realizing that the joke was on them, they pulled him from the platform and kicked him from the building.
LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS
In speaking of the orators and oratory that were evolved by the Slavery issue, there are two names that cannot be omitted. These are Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. It was the good fortune of the writer to be an eye and ear witness of the closing bout, at Alton, Illinois, between those two political champions in their great debate of 1858. The contrast between the men was remarkable. Lincoln was very tall and spare, standing up, when speaking, straight and stiff. Douglas was short and stumpy, a regular roly-poly man. Lincoln’s face was calm and meek, almost immobile. He referred to it in his address as “my rather melancholy face.” Although plain and somewhat rugged, I never regarded Lincoln’s face as homely. I saw him many times and talked with him, after the occasion now referred to. It was a good face, and had many winning lines. Douglas’s countenance, on the other hand, was leonine and full of expression. His was a handsome face. When lighted up by the excitement of debate it could not fail to impress an audience.