previous next

Doc. 204 1/2.-speech of Senator Douglas. His last words for the Union.

Senator Douglas and wife reached Chicago, Ill., on their return from Washington, on the evening of the 1st day of May, and were met at the depot by an immense assemblage of citizens of all parties, who insisted on escorting Mr. Douglas in procession to the great Wigwam, which was already packed with ten thousand persons. Room having been made for the admission of Mr. Douglas, he was addressed by Thomas B. Bryan, in behalf of Chicago. Mr. Douglas replied:

Mr. Chairman:--I thank you for the kind terms in which you have been pleased to welcome me. I thank the Committee and citizens of Chicago for this grand and imposing reception. I beg you to believe that I will not do you nor myself the injustice to believe this magnificent ovation is personal homage to myself. I rejoice to know that it expresses your devotion to the Constitution, the Union, and the flag of our country. (Cheers.)

I will not conceal gratification at the uncontrovertible test this vast audience presents — that what political differences or party questions may have divided us, yet you all had a conviction that when the country should be in danger, my loyalty could be relied on. That the present danger is imminent, no man can conceal. If war must come — if the bayonet must be used to maintain the Constitution — I can say before God my conscience is clean. I have struggled long for a peaceful solution of the difficulty. I have not only tendered those States what was theirs of right, but I have gone to the very extreme of magnanimity.

The return we receive is war, armies marched upon our capital, obstructions and dangers to our navigation, letters of marque to invite pirates to prey upon our commerce, a concerted movement to blot out the United States of America from the map of the globe. The question is, Are we to maintain the country of our fathers, or allow it to be stricken down by those who, when they can no longer govern, threaten to destroy?

What cause, what excuse do disunionists give us for breaking up the best Government on which the sun of heaven ever shed its rays? They are dissatisfied with the result of a Presidential election. Did they never get beaten before? Are we to resort to the sword when we get defeated at the ballot-box. I understand it that the voice of the people expressed in the mode appointed by the Constitution must command the obedience of every citizen. They assume, on the election of a particular [299] candidate, that their rights are not safe in the Union. What evidence do they present of this? I defy any man to show any act on which it is based. What act has been omitted to be done? I appeal to these assembled thousands that so far as the constitutional rights of the Southern States, I will say the constitutional rights of slaveholders, are concerned, nothing has been done, and nothing omitted, of which they can complain.

There has never been a time from the day that Washington was inaugurated first President of these United States, when the rights of the Southern States stood firmer under the laws of the land than they do now; there never was a time when they had not as good a cause for disunion as they have to-day. What good cause have they now that has not existed under every Administration?

If they say the Territorial question — now, for the first time, there is no act of Congress prohibiting slavery anywhere. If it be the non-enforcement of the laws, the only complaints that I have heard have been of the too vigorous and faithful fulfilment of the Fugitive Slave Law. Then what reason have they?

The slavery question is a mere excuse. The election of Lincoln is a mere pretext. The present secession movement is the result of an enormous conspiracy formed more than a year since, formed by leaders in the Southern Confederacy more than twelve months ago.

They use the Slavery question as a means to aid the accomplishment of their ends. They desired the election of a Northern candidate, by a sectional vote, in order to show that the two sections cannot live together. When the history of the two years from the Lecompton charter down to the Presidential election shall be written, it Will be shown that the scheme was deliberately made to break up this Union.

They desired a Northern Republican to be elected by a purely Northern vote, and then assign this fact as a reason why the sections may not longer live together. If the disunion candidate in the late Presidential contest had carried the united South, their scheme was, the Northern candidate successful, to seize the Capitol last spring, and by a united South and divided North hold it. That scheme was defeated in the defeat of the disunion candidate in several of the Southern States.

But this is no time for a detail of causes. The conspiracy is now known. Armies have been raised, war is levied to accomplish it. There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war; only patriots — or traitors.

Thank God Illinois is not divided on this question. (Cheers.) I know they expected to present a united South against a divided North. They hoped in the Northern States, party questions would bring civil war between Democrats and Republicans, when the South would step in with her cohorts, aid one party to conquer the other, and, then make easy prey of the victors. Their scheme was carnage and civil war in the North.

There is but one way to defeat this. In Illinois it is being so defeated by closing up the ranks. War will thus be prevented on our own soil. While there was a hope of peace I was ready for any reasonable sacrifice or compromise to maintain it. But when the question comes of war in the cotton-fields of the South or the corn-fields of Illinois, I say the farther off the better.

We cannot close our eyes to the sad and solemn fact that war does exist. The Government must be maintained, its enemies over-thrown, and the more stupendous our preparations the less the bloodshed, and the shorter the struggle. But we must remember certain restraints on our action even in time of war. We are a Christian people, and the war must be prosecuted in a manner recognized by Christian nations.

We must not invade Constitutional rights. The innocent must not suffer, nor women and children be the victims. Savages must not be let loose. But while I sanction no war on the rights of others, I will implore my countrymen not to lay down their arms until our own rights are recognized. (Cheers.)

The Constitution and its guarantees are our birthright, and I am ready to enforce that inalienable right to the last extent. We cannot recognize secession. Recognize it once, and you have not only dissolved government, but you have destroyed social order, upturned the foundations of society. You have inaugurated anarchy in its worst form, and will shortly experience all the horrors of the French Revolution.

Then we have a solemn duty — to maintain the Government. The greater our unanimity the speedier the day of peace. We have prejudices to overcome from the few short months since of a fierce party contest. Yet these must be allayed. Let us lay aside all criminations and recriminations as to the origin of these difficulties. When we shall have again a country with the United States flag floating over it, and respected on every inch of American. soil, it will then be time enough to ask who and what brought all this upon us.

I have said more than I intended to say. (Cries of “Go on.” ) It is a sad task to discuss questions so fearful as civil war; but sad as it is, bloody and disastrous as I expect it will be, I express it as my conviction before God, that it is the duty of every American citizen to rally round the flag of his country.

I thank you again for this magnificent demonstration. By it you show you have laid aside party strife. Illinois has a proud position — United, firm, determined never to permit the Government to be destroyed. (Prolonged cheering.)--N. Y. Tribune, June 18.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (4)
Illinois (Illinois, United States) (4)
Chicago (Illinois, United States) (3)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
George Douglas (5)
Abraham Lincoln (1)
Doc (1)
Chairman (1)
Thomas B. Bryan (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 18th (1)
May 1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: