returned to Washington
after the debates were over, he confessed to the young Henry Watterson
that “he is the greatest debater I have ever met, either here or anywhere else.”
had won the senatorship and could afford to be generous, but he knew well enough that his opponent's facts and dates had been unanswerable.
's mental grip, indeed, was the grip of a born wrestler.
“I've got him,” he had exclaimed toward the end of the first debate, and the Protean Little Giant, as Douglas
was called, had turned and twisted in vain, caught by “that long-armed creature from Illinois
He could indeed win the election of 1858, but he had been forced into an interpretation of the Dred Scott
decision which cost him the Presidency in 1860.
's keen interest in words and definitions, his patience in searching the dictionary, is known to every student of his life.
Part of his singular discrimination in the use of language is due to his legal training, but his style was never professionalized.
Neither did it have anything of that frontier glibness and banality which was the curse of popular oratory in the West and South.
Words were weapons in the hands of this self-taught fighter for ideas: he kept their edges sharp, and