A remarkable school of political science had begun its sessions in that little western village. The world had never seen the like of it. Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, E.D. Baker, O.H. Browning, Jesse B. Thomas, and Josiah Lamborn—a most unusual array of talent as subsequent history has proved—were wont to gather around the fireplace in the rear of Joshua Speed’s store, evenings, to discuss the issues of the time. Samson and his son Joe came often to hear the talk. Douglas looked like a dwarf among those long geared men. He was slight and short, being only about five feet tall, but he had a big, round head covered with thick, straight, dark hair, a bull-dog look and a voice like thunder. The first steamboat had crossed the Atlantic the year before and The Future of Transportation was one of the first themes discussed by this remarkable group of men. Douglas and Lincoln were in a heated argument over the admission of slavery to the territories the first night that Samson and Joe sat down with them.
“We didn’t like that little rooster of a man, he had such a high and mighty way with him and so frankly opposed the principles we believe in. He was an out and out pro-slavery man. He would have every state free to regulate its domestic institutions, in its own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States. Lincoln held that it amounted to saying ’that if one man chose to enslave another no third party shall be allowed to object.’”
In the course of the argument Douglas alleged that the Whigs were the aristocrats of the country.
“That reminds me of a night when I was speaking at Havana,” said Honest Abe. “A man with a ruffled shirt and a massive gold watch chain got up and charged that the Whigs were aristocrats. Douglas in his broadcloth and fine linen reminds me of that man. I’m going to answer Douglas as I answered him. Most of the Whigs I know are my kind of folks. I was a poor boy working on a flat boat at eight dollars a month and had only one pair of breeches and they were buckskin. If you know the nature of buckskin, you know that when it is wet and dried by the sun it will shrink and my breeches kept shrinking and deserting the sock area of my legs until several inches of them were bare above my shoes. Whilst I was growing longer they were growing shorter and so much tighter that they left a blue streak around my legs which can be seen to this day. If you call that aristocracy I know of one Whig that is an aristocrat.”