Lincoln indulged in no gesticulation. If he had been addressing a bench of judges he would not have been more impassive in his manner. He was an animate, but not an animated, bean-pole. He poured out a steady flow of words—three to Douglas’s two—in a simple and semi-conversational tone. He attempted no witticisms and indulged in no oratorical claptrap. His address was pure argument. Douglas’s manner was one of excitement, and accompanied and emphasized by almost continuous bodily movement. His hands and his feet, and especially that pliable face of his, were all busy talking. He said sharp things, evidently for their immediate effect on his audience, and showed that he was not only master of all the arts of the practical stump orator, but was ready to employ them.
But the most noticeable difference was in the voices of the men. Douglas spoke first, and for the first minute or two was utterly unintelligible. His voice seemed to be all worn out by his speaking in that long and principally open-air debate. He simply bellowed. But gradually he got command of his organ, and pretty soon, in a somewhat laborious and painful way, it is true, he succeeded in making himself understood.
Lincoln’s voice, on the contrary, was without a quaver or a sign of huskiness. He had been speaking in the open air exactly as much as Douglas, but it was perfectly fresh, not a particle strained. It was a perfect voice.
Those who wanted to understand Douglas had to press up close to the platform from which he was speaking, and there was collected a dense, but not very deep, crowd. There was no crowding in front of Lincoln when he was speaking. He could be heard without it. There was a line of wagons and carriages on the outskirts of the audience, and I noticed, when Lincoln was speaking, that they were filled with comfortably seated people listening to his address. They did not need to go any nearer to him. The most of the shouting was done by Douglas’s partisans, composing a clear majority of the crowd, but it was very manifest that Lincoln commanded the attention of the greater number of those who were interested in the arguments. He did not act as if he cared for the applause of the multitude. He said nothing, apparently, simply to tickle the ears of his hearers.
Rather strange was it that the only points on which there did not appear to be much, if any, difference between the two men were reached when they came to the propositions they advocated. Douglas was avowedly pro-slavery. He was talking in southern Illinois and on the border of Missouri, to which many of his hearers belonged, and his audience was mostly Southern in its feelings. He was plainly trying to please that element. He not only approved of slavery where it was, but metaphorically jumped on the negro and trampled all over him. He denied that the negro was a “man” within the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln, however, as far as slavery in the States was involved, met Douglas on his own ground, and “went him one better.” He said, “I have on all occasions declared as strongly as Judge Douglas against the disposition to interfere with the existing institution of slavery.”