They declared in that platform that the Wilmot Proviso was to be applied to all the Territories of the United States, North as well as South of 36 deg. Such were their principles in Northern Illinois. A little further South they became bleached and grew paler just in proportion as public sentiment moderated and changed in this direction. They were Republicans or Abolitionists in the North, anti—Nebraska men down about Springfield, and in this neighborhood they contented themselves with talking about the inexpediency of the repeal of the Missouri compromise.
Shouts of laughter. In the extreme northern counties they brought out men to canvass the State whose complexion suited their political creed, and hence Fred Douglass, the negro, was to be found there, following Gen. Cass, and attempting to speak on behalf of Lincoln, Trumbull and Abolitionism, against that illustrious Senator. Renewed laughter. Why, they brought Fred Douglass to Freeport, when I was addressing a meeting there, in a carriage driven by the white owner, the negro sitting inside with the white lady and her daughter.
When I got through canvassing the northern counties that year, and progressed as far south as Springfield, I was met and opposed in discussion by Lincoln, Lovejoy, Trumbull, and Sidney Breese, who were on one side. Father Giddings, the high—priest of Abolitionism, had just been there, and Chase came about the time I left. Great laughter and cheers. Trumbull had for his lieutenants, in aiding him to abolitionize the Democracy, such men as John Wentworth, of Chicago, Gov. Dougherty, for instance, would not go much further than to talk about the inexpediency of the Nebraska bill, whilst his allies at Chicago, advocated negro citizenship and negro equality, putting the white man and the negro on the same basis under the law.
Never, never. Now these men, four years ago, were engaged in a conspiracy to break down the Democracy; to—day they are again acting together for the same purpose! They do not hoist the same flag; they do not own the same principles, or profess the same faith; but conceal their union for the sake of policy. I have one of the handbills calling a Trumbull meeting at Waterloo the other day, which I received there, which is in the following language:. Lyman Trumbull, Hon. John Baker and others, will address the people upon the different political topics of the day.
Members of all parties are cordially invited to be present, and hear and determine for themselves. When I put that question to them at Waterloo on Saturday last, one of them rose and stated that they had changed their name for political effect in order to get votes. There was a candid admission. Their object in changing their party organization and principles in different localities was avowed to be an attempt to cheat and deceive some portion of the people until after the election.
Why cannot a political party that is conscious of the rectitude of its purposes and the soundness of its principles declare them every where alike? I would disdain to hold any political principles that I could not avow in the same terms in Kentucky that I declared in Illinois, in Charleston as well as in Chicago, in New Orleans as well as in New York.
So long as we live under a Constitution common to all the States, our political faith ought to be as broad as liberal, and just as that Constitution itself, and should be proclaimed alike in every portion of the Union. Hear, hear. But it is apparent that our opponents find it necessary, for partisan effect, to change their colors in different counties in order to catch the popular breeze, and hope with these discordant materials combined together to secure a majority in the Legislature for the purpose of putting down the Democratic party.
This combination did succeed in so far as to elect a majority of their confederates to the Legislature, and the first important act which they performed was to elect a Senator in the place of the eminent and gallant Senator Shields. His term expired in the United States Senate at that time, and he had to be crushed by the Abolition coalition for the simple reason that he would not join in their conspiracy to wage war against one—half of the Union.
That was the only objection to General Shields. He had served the people of the State with ability in the Legislature, he had served you with fidelity and ability as Auditor, he had performed his duties to the satisfaction of the whole country at the head of the Land Department at Washington, he had covered the State and the Union with immortal glory on the bloody fields of Mexico in defense of the honor of our flag, and yet he had to be stricken down by this unholy combination.
And for what cause? Trumbull was put in his place by Abolitionism. How did Trumbull get there? Before the Abolitionists would consent to go into an election for United States Senator they required all the members of this new combination to show their hands upon this question of Abolitionism. Lovejoy, one of their high—priests, brought in resolutions defining the Abolition creed, and required them to commit themselves on it by their votes—yea or nay.
In that creed, as laid down by Lovejoy, they declared first, that the Wilmot Proviso must be put on all the Territories of the United States, North as well as South of 36 deg. The next day after these resolutions were offered they were voted upon, part of them carried, and the others defeated, the same men who voted for them, with only two exceptions, voting soon after for Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the United States Senate.
Immense laughter. Thus you find, that although the Legislature was carried that year by the bargain between Trumbull, Lincoln, and the Abolitionists, and the union of these discordant elements in one harmonious party; yet Trumbull violated his pledge, and played a Yankee trick on Lincoln when they came to divide the spoils.
Laughter and cheers. Lincoln greatly agitated, his face buried in his hands. Perhaps you would like a little evidence on this point. If you would, I will call Col. James H. Matheny, of Springfield, to the stand, Mr. Harris, and is making speeches all over that part of the State against me and in favor of Lincoln, in concert with Trumbull. He ought to be a good witness, and I will read an extract from a speech which he made in , when he was mad because his friend Lincoln had been cheated.
It is one of numerous speeches of the same tenor that were made about that time, exposing this bargain between Lincoln, Trumbull and the Abolitionists. Matheny then said:. That they would all combine and elect Mr. Trumbull to Congress, and thereby carry his district for the Legislature, in order to throw all the strength that could be obtained into that body against the Democrats. That when the Legislature should meet, the officers of that body, such as speaker, clerks, door—keepers, etc. That the Whigs were to have the United States Senator. The Whigs, on their part, demanded the election of Abraham Lincoln to the United States Senate, that the bond might be fulfilled, the other parties to the contract having already secured to themselves all that was called for.
But, in the most perfidious manner, they refused to elect Mr.
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Lincoln; and the mean, low—lived, sneaking Trumbull succeeded, by pledging all that was required by any party, in thrusting Lincoln aside and foisting himself, an excrescence from the rotten bowels of the Democracy, into the United States Senate; and thus it has ever been, that an honest man makes a bad bargain when he conspires or contracts with rogues. Matheny thought that his friend Lincoln made a bad bargain when he conspired and contracted with such rogues as Trumbull and his Abolition associates in that campaign.
Great cheers and laughter; Lincoln looking very miserable. In that way the Abolitionists have been enabled to hold Lincoln to the alliance up to this time, and now they have brought him into a fight against me, and he is to see if he is again to be cheated by them. Lincoln this time, though, required more of them than a promise, and holds their bond, if not security, that Lovejoy shall not cheat him as Trumbull did.
Renewed shouts of laughter. He was not willing to have it understood that he was merely their first choice, or their last choice, but their only choice. The Black Republican party had nobody else. Browning was nowhere; Gov. Bissell was of no account; Archie Williams was not to be taken into consideration; John Wentworth was not worth mentioning; John M.
Palmer was degraded; and their party presented the extraordinary spectacle of having but one—the first, the last, and only choice for the Senate. Suppose that Lincoln should die, what a horrible condition the Republican party would be in! A groan from Lincoln, and great laughter. They would have nobody left. Well, gentlemen, I think they will have a nice time of it before they get through. I do not intend to give them any chance to cheat Lincoln at all this time. I intend to relieve him of all anxiety upon that subject, and spare them the mortification of more exposures of contracts violated, and the pledged honor of rogues forfeited.
Great applause. But I wish to invite your attention to the chief points at issue between Mr. Lincoln and myself in this discussion. Lincoln knowing that he was to be the candidate of his party on account of the arrangement of which I have already spoken, knowing that he was to receive the nomination of the Convention for the United States Senate, had his speech, accepting that nomination, all written and committed to memory, ready to be delivered the moment the nomination was announced. Accordingly, when it was made, he was in readiness, and delivered his speech, a portion of which I will read, in order that I may state his political principles fairly, by repeating them in his own language:.
I believe it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the States, North as well as South.
There you have Mr. He tells you that this Republic cannot endure permanently divided into slave and free States, as our fathers made it. He says that they must all become free or all become slave, that they must all be one thing or all be the other, or this Government cannot last. Why can it not last, if we will execute the Government in the same spirit and upon the same principles upon which it is founded?
What good would follow such a system of warfare? Suppose the North should succeed in conquering the South, how much would she be the gainer? Is this sectional warfare to be waged between Northern States and Southern States until they all shall become uniform in their local and domestic institutions merely because Mr. Lincoln says that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and pretends that this scriptural quotation, this language of our Lord and Master, is applicable to the American Union and the American Constitution?
Washington and his compeers, in the Convention that framed the Constitution, made this Government divided into free and slave States. It was composed then of thirteen sovereign and independent States, each having sovereign authority over its local and domestic institutions, and all bound together by the Federal Constitution. Lincoln likens that bond of the Federal Constitution, joining free and slave States together, to a house divided against itself, and says that it is contrary to the law of God and cannot stand.
When did he learn, and by what authority does he proclaim, that this Government is contrary to the law of God and cannot stand? It has stood thus divided into free and slave States from its organization up to this day. During that period we have increased from four millions to thirty millions of people; we have extended our territory from the Mississippi to the Pacific ocean; we have acquired the Floridas and Texas, and other territory sufficient to double our geographical extent; we have increased in population, in wealth, and in power beyond any example on earth; we have risen from a weak and feeble power to become the terror and admiration of the civilized world; and all this has been done under a Constitution which Mr.
Lincoln, in substance, says is in violation of the law of God, and under a Union divided into free and slave States, which Mr. Lincoln thinks, because of such division, cannot stand. Surely, Mr. Lincoln is a wiser man than those who framed the Government. Washington did not believe, nor did his compatriots, that the local laws and domestic institutions that were well adapted to the Green Mountains of Vermont were suited to the rice plantations of South Carolina; they did not believe at that day that in a Republic so broad and expanded as this, containing such a variety of climate, soil, and interest, that uniformity in the local laws and domestic institutions was either desirable or possible.
They believed then as our experience has proved to us now, that each locality, having different interests, a different climate and different surroundings, required different local laws, local policy and local institutions, adapted to the wants of that locality. Thus our Government was formed on the principle of diversity in the local institutions and laws, and not on that of uniformity. As my time flies, I can only glance at these points and not present them as fully as I would wish, because I desire to bring all the points in controversy between the two parties before you in order to have Mr.
He makes war on the decision of the Supreme Court, in the case known as the Dred Scott case. I wish to say to you, fellow—citizens, that I have no war to make on that decision, or any other ever rendered by the Supreme Court. I am content to take that decision as it stands delivered by the highest judicial tribunal on earth, a tribunal established by the Constitution of the United States for that purpose, and hence that decision becomes the law of the land, binding on you, on me, and on every other good citizen whether we like it or not.
Hence I do not choose to go into an argument to prove, before this audience, whether or not Chief Justice Taney understood the law better than Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln objects to that decision, first and mainly because it deprives the negro of the rights of citizenship. I am as much opposed to his reason for that objection as I am to the objection itself. I hold that a negro is not and never ought to be a citizen of the United States. Good, good, and tremendous cheers. I hold that this Government was made on the white basis, by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others.
I do not believe that the Almighty made the negro capable of self—government. I am aware that all the Abolition lecturers that you find traveling about through the country, are in the habit of reading the Declaration of Independence to prove that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Lincoln is very much in the habit of following in the track of Lovejoy in this particular, by reading that part of the Declaration of Independence to prove that the negro was endowed by the Almighty with the inalienable right of equality with white men. Now, I say to you, my fellow—citizens, that in my opinion, the signers of the Declaration had no reference to the negro whatever, when they declared all men to be created equal. They desired to express by that phrase white men, men of European birth and European descent, and had no reference either to the negro, the savage Indians, the Fejee, the Malay, or any other inferior and degraded race, when they spoke of the equality of men.
One great evidence that such was their understanding, is to be found in the fact that at that time every one of the thirteen colonies was a slaveholding colony, every signer of the Declaration represented a slaveholding constituency, and we know that no one of them emancipated his slaves, much less offered citizenship to them when they signed the Declaration; and yet, if they intended to declare that the negro was the equal of the white man, and entitled by divine right to an equality with him, they were bound, as honest men, that day and hour to have put their negroes on an equality with themselves.
My friends, I am in favor of preserving this Government as our fathers made it. It does not follow by any means that because a negro is not your equal or mine, that hence he must necessarily be a slave. On the contrary, it does follow that we ought to extend to the negro every right, every privilege, every immunity which he is capable of enjoying, consistent with the good of society. When you ask me what these rights are, what their nature and extent is, I tell you that that is a question which each State of this Union must decide for itself.
SENATOR DOUGLAS' SPEECH.
Illinois has already decided the question. We have decided that the negro must not be a slave within our limits, but we have also decided that the negro shall not be a citizen within our limits; that he shall not vote, hold office, or exercise any political rights. I maintain that Illinois, as a sovereign State, has a right thus to fix her policy with reference to the relation between the white man and the negro; but while we had that right to decide the question for ourselves, we must recognize the same right in Kentucky and in every other State to make the same decision, or a different one.
Having decided our own policy with reference to the black race, we must leave Kentucky and Missouri and every other State perfectly free to make just such a decision as they see proper on that question. Kentucky has decided that question for herself. She has said that within her limits a negro shall not exercise any political rights, and she has also said that a portion of the negroes under the laws of that State shall be slaves.
She had as much right to adopt that as her policy as we had to adopt the contrary for our policy. I, for one, am utterly opposed to negro suffrage any where and under any circumstances; yet, inasmuch as the Supreme Court have decided in the celebrated Dred Scott case that a State has a right to confer the privilege of voting upon free negroes, I am not going to make war upon New York because she has adopted a policy repugnant to my feelings.
But New York must mind her own business, and keep her negro suffrage to herself, and not attempt to force it upon us. In the State of Maine they have decided that a negro may vote and hold office on an equality with a white man. I had occasion to say to the Senators from Maine, in a discussion last session, that if they thought that the white people within the limits of their State were no better than negroes, I would not quarrel with them for it, but they must not say that my white constituents of Illinois were no better than negroes, or we would be sure to quarrel.
The Dred Scott decision covers the whole question, and declares that each State has the right to settle this question of suffrage for itself, and all questions as to the relations between the white man and the negro. Judge Taney expressly lays down the doctrine. I receive it as law, and I say that while those States are adopting regulations on that subject disgusting and abhorrent, according to my views, I will not make war on them if they will mind their own business and let us alone.
Bravo, and cheers. I now come back to the question, why cannot this Union exist forever divided into free and slave States, as our fathers made it? It can thus exist if each State will carry out the principles upon which our institutions were founded, to wit: the right of each State to do as it pleases, without meddling with its neighbors. Just act upon that great principle, and this Union will not only live forever, but it will extend and expand until it covers the whole continent, and makes this confederacy one grand, ocean—bound Republic.
We must bear in mind that we are yet a young nation, growing with a rapidity unequaled in the history of the world, that our national increase is great, and that the emigration from the old world is increasing, requiring us to expand and acquire new territory from time to time, in order to give our people land to live upon. If we live upon the principle of State rights and State sovereignty, each State regulating its own affairs and minding its own business, we can go on and extend indefinitely, just as fast and as far as we need the territory.
The time may come, indeed has now come, when our interests would be advanced by the acquisition of the Island of Cuba. Terrific applause. When we get Cuba we must take it as we find it, leaving the people to decide the question of slavery for themselves, without interference on the part of the Federal Government, or of any State of this Union.
So, when it becomes necessary to acquire any portion of Mexico or Canada, or of this continent or the adjoining islands, we must take them as we find them, leaving the people free to do as they please—to have slavery or not, as they choose. I never have inquired and never will inquire whether a new State, applying for admission, has slavery or not for one of her institutions. If the Constitution that is presented be the act and deed of the people, and embodies their will, and they have the requisite population, I will admit them with slavery or without it, just as that people shall determine.
My objection to the Lecompton Constitution did not consist in the fact that it made Kansas a slave State. I would have been as much opposed to its admission under such a Constitution as a free State as I was opposed to its admission under it as a slave State. I hold that that was a question which that people had a right to decide for themselves, and that no power on earth ought to have interfered with that decision. In my opinion, the Lecompton Constitution was not the act and deed of the people of Kansas, and did not embody their will, and the recent election in that Territory, at which it was voted down by nearly ten to one, shows conclusively that I was right in saying, when the Constitution was presented, that it was not the act and deed of the people, and did not embody their will.
If we wish to preserve our institutions in their purity, and transmit them unimpaired to our latest posterity, we must preserve with religious good faith that great principle of self—government which guaranties to each and every State, old and new, the right to make just such Constitutions as they desire, and come into the Union with their own Constitution, and not one palmed upon them.
As he prepared to face Lincoln, Douglas didn't want to offend the South any further. Although we regard the debates today as a head-to-head contest for votes, in fact neither Lincoln nor Douglas was on the ballot.
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That meant that the party holding the most seats in the state legislature could choose who to send to the Senate. Even this was not as straightforward as it seemed. The sizes of districts varied wildly as a result of gerrymandering, in Illinois' case by Democrats, who dominated state politics. In some Republican-leaning districts, for instance, it took almost twice as many votes to elect a legislator as in pro-Democratic districts. The middle section of the state, heavily populated by members of the old Whig Party, was politically fluid. Lincoln's challenge was to bring that middle belt over to the Republicans.
Each debate was to be three hours long. The candidates would address each other directly. The first speaker would deliver an hourlong opening statement; the second would then have the floor for an hour and a half. The first speaker would then return to the podium for a half-hour rebuttal. There were no restrictions on what they could say.
Never before had an incumbent senator, much less one of Douglas' stature, agreed to debate his challenger in public. Douglas assumed that his renowned oratorical powers would defeat Lincoln handily. Excitement ran high. Tens of thousands of men, women and children flocked to the debates, which—in an age before television, national teams or mass entertainment—took on the atmosphere of a championship prizefight and county fair combined.
Lincoln-Douglas, Debating the Future of a Nation en Apple Books
Lincoln, whose campaign funds were limited, traveled modestly by coach. Douglas rolled along in style, ensconced in his own private railway car, trailed by a flatcar fitted with a cannon dubbed "Little Doug," which fired off a round whenever the train approached a town. The two antagonists met first on August 21, , in Ottawa, 50 miles west of Chicago.
Douglas sneered that Lincoln was no more than a closet abolitionist—an insult akin to calling a politician soft on terrorism today. Lincoln, he went on, had wanted to allow blacks "to vote on an equality with yourselves, and to make them eligible to [sic] office, to serve on juries, and to adjudge your rights. The pro-Douglas State Register crowed, "The excoriation of Lincoln was so severe that the Republicans hung their heads in shame. Six days later at Freeport, Douglas still managed to keep Lincoln largely on the defensive.
But Lincoln set a trap for Douglas. He demanded to know whether, in Douglas' opinion, the doctrine known as popular sovereignty would permit settlers to exclude slavery from a new territory before it became a state. If Douglas answered "no," that settlers had no right to decide against slavery, then it would be obvious that popular sovereignty would be powerless to stop westward expansion of bondage, as Douglas sometimes implied that it could.
If Douglas answered "yes," that the doctrine permitted settlers to exclude slavery, then he would further alienate Southern voters. Southerners had suspected Douglas of waffling on the issue. Their fear was now confirmed: two years later, his answer would come back to haunt him. The debaters met for the third time on September 15 at Jonesboro, in a part of southern Illinois known as "Egypt" for its proximity to the city of Cairo.
Once again, Douglas harangued Lincoln for his alleged abolitionism. He warned that Lincoln would not only grant citizenship and the right to vote to freed slaves but would allow black men to marry white women—the ultimate horror to many voters, North and South. Douglas' racial demagoguery was steadily taking a toll. Lincoln's backers feared that not only would Lincoln lose the election, but that he would bring down other Republican candidates.
Finally, Lincoln counter-attacked. At Charleston, three days later, Lincoln played his own race card. The debate site—now a grassy field between a trailer park and a sprawl of open sheds where livestock is exhibited at the county fair—lies only a few miles north of the log cabin where Lincoln's beloved stepmother, Sarah, still lived. On that September afternoon, Lincoln declared that while he opposed slavery, he was not for unequivocal racial equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
Ugly though it was, Charleston would prove to be the debates' turning point. Until that moment, Lincoln had been on the defensive. But a shift in public perception was underway. The debaters' next venue was Knox College in the western Illinois town of Galesburg, a bastion of evangelical religion and abolitionism. On the day of the debate, October 7, torrential rains and gusting winds sent campaign signs skittering and forced debate organizers to move the speakers' platform, sheltering it against the outside wall of the neo-Gothic Old Main hall.
The platform was so high, however, that the two candidates had to climb through the building's second-floor windows and then down a ladder to the stage. Lincoln drew a laugh when he remarked, "At last I can say now that I've gone through college!
Third Debate: Jonesboro, Illinois
Rather, Lincoln's strategy was about impact and momentum. He knew that at Galesburg he'd have a good chance to sway hearts and minds. The atmosphere was raucous. When Lincoln stepped forward, he seemed a man transformed. His high tenor voice rang out "as clear as a bell," one listener recalled. Without repudiating his own crude remarks at Charleston, he challenged Douglas' racism on moral grounds.
He can say that, logically, if he says that there is no wrong in slavery; but if you admit that there is a wrong in it, he cannot logically say that anybody has a right to do wrong. Douglas, pierced to the very vitals by the barbed harpoons which Lincoln hurls at him, goes around and around, making the water foam, filling the air with roars of rage and pain, spouting torrents of blood, and striking out fiercely but vainly at his assailant.
Six days later, the debaters clashed again at the Mississippi River port of Quincy, 85 miles southwest of Galesburg. Scholz, who led Quincy's urban renewal in the s, stands in Washington Square, the site of the debate, among cherry and magnolia trees in glorious bloom. Within sight across the river lay the slave state of Missouri. Lincoln came on aggressively, building on the same argument he had launched the week before. Although the Negro could not expect absolute social and political equality, he still enjoyed the same right to the freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that were promised to all by the Declaration of Independence.
Douglas, ill with bronchitis, seemed sluggish and unsteady. He accused Lincoln of promoting mob violence, rebellion and even genocide by confining slavery only to the states where it already existed. Without room for slavery to expand, the natural increase of the slave population would lead to catastrophe, Douglas claimed. The next day, the two men walked down to the Mississippi River, boarded a riverboat and steamed south to the port of Alton for their seventh and final debate.
Today, Alton's seedy riverfront is dominated by towering concrete grain elevators and a garish riverboat casino, the Argosy , the city's main employer. On October 15, the weary gladiators—they had been debating for seven weeks now, not to mention speaking at hundreds of crossroads and whistle-stops across the state—gazed out over busy docks piled high with bales and crates; riverboats belching smoke; and the mile-wide Mississippi. Here, Lincoln hoped to administer a coup de grace. His voice was weak; his words came out in barks.
Lincoln hammered away at the basic immorality of slavery. Nothing else had ever so threatened Americans' liberty and prosperity as slavery, he said. Lincoln's appeal to higher morality towered over Douglas' personal attacks. Still, our perception of the debates is skewed by our admiration for Lincoln. Lincoln is speaking to the future, to the better angels of our own nature, while Douglas was speaking in large part to the past, in which slavery still seemed reasonable and defensible. But while Lincoln may have won the debates, he lost the election. The "Whig Belt" went almost entirely for Douglas and the new legislature would re-elect Douglas 54 percent to 46 percent.
Recent research by Guelzo tells a surprising story, however. By analyzing the returns district by district, Guelzo discovered that of the total votes cast for House seats, , were cast for Republicans, against , for Democrats.
Lincoln-Douglas Debates Set the Stage for the 1860 Election
In other words, had the candidates been competing for the popular vote, Lincoln would have scored a smashing victory. Still, the debates introduced Lincoln to a national audience and set the stage for his dark-horse run for the Republican presidential nomination two years later. Now he has the answer: He can. He now begins to see himself as a possible president. In , he would fulfill his ambition of winning the Democratic nomination for president, but in the general election he would win only one state—Missouri.
In the debates of , Lincoln had also finally forced the coruscating issue of slavery out into the open. Despite his own remarks at Charleston, he managed to rise above the conventional racism of his time to prod Americans to think more deeply about both race and human rights. He didn't have to please the abolitionists, because they had nowhere else to go. He really believed that there was a moral line that no amount of popular sovereignty could cross.
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