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CHAPTER 4 - HOME TO CHARLESTON SEPTEMBER 18, 1858. ABRAHAM

EVERYONE THOUGHT I WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY TROUNCED - BUT I WAS NOT. THANK GOD THERE WERE NOT THE CROWDS LIKE AT OTTAWA OR FREEPORT.

MARY

EVEN BEFORE ALL THE NEWSPAPERS COMMENT ON THE JONESBORO DEBATE IN EGYPT, I FEEL THAT THIS WAS A VERY GOOD DEBATE BY BOTH OF YOU.

ABRAHAM

I WILL ADMIT THAT THE JUDGE NEVER COMPLETELY TELLS THE WHOLE TRUTH. HE MAY COME CLOSE AT TIMES.

MARY

WELL HE TACTFULLY AVOIDED THE QUESTION SQUARELY OF WHETHER TERRITORIES COULD EXCLUDE SLAVERY BY SAYING THAT LOCAL LAWS COULD DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT SLAVERY COULD COME THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

ABRAHAM

THE JUDGE IS TREADING A FINE LINE BETWEEN THE SOUTHERN SENTIMENT ALL AROUND US FROM THE SLAVE HOLDING STATES OF MISSOURI AND KENTUCKY AND WITH THE STRONG PROSLAVERY SENTIMENT OF EGYPT AND CENTRAL ILLINOIS - THOUGH THAT IS FADING.

MARY

IN FACT WHEN THE JUDGE HARPS ON YOUR UNCONSTITUTIONAL ACTS, HE IS NO DIFFERENT. EVEN IF A WHITE MAN HARBORS A SLAVE IN A STATE OR TERRITORY IN WHICH IT IS AGAINST THE LAW, IS THAT NOT FUNDAMENTALLY AGAINST THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION?

ABRAHAM

WELL THIS IS THE DILEMMA WE ARE PRESENTLY ENCOUNTERING. TECHNICALLY YOU ARE RIGHT MARY. BASED ON THE KANSAS NEBRASKA ACT OF 1854 SPONSORED BY THE JUDGE IN THE SENATE, THIS NULLIFIED THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE OF 1820. SLAVERY ESSENTIALLY IS NOT ILLEGAL ANYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES.

MARY

AND DRED SCOTT MADE IT JUST THAT MUCH WORSE. THE PLIGHT ON NEGROES MAY NEVER BE OVERCOME WITH THIS SUPREME COURT RULING. 2


ABRAHAM

UNFORTUNATELY YES. THE TANEY DECISION GAVE US TWO THINGS. ONE - THAT SLAVES COULD NEVER BE CITIZENS. AND TWO - THE SLAVES WERE PROPERTY OF THEIR MASTERS. THUS A MASTER ESSENTIALLY COULD GO TO A FREE STATE OR TERRITORY AND DESPITE LOCAL LAW BEING ABOLITIONIST, HOLD SLAVES IN BONDAGE. WHAT A MESS.

MARY ABRAHAM

I FEAR A CIVIL WAR LOOMING. THAT MAY BE THE ONLY WAY TO SETTLE THE MATTER. SAD, VERY SAD.

MARY

BUT THE JUDGE KEEPS STUMPING AGAINST YOUR HOUSE DIVIDED SPEECH.

ABRAHAM

THAT WILL NEVER END. IF ONE CLOSELY READS IT, WELL I’M NEUTRAL ON THE ISSUE OF SLAVERY. ALL I SAID IS THAT WE WILL BECOME ONE OR THE OTHER, AND CANNOT EXIST WITH BOTH AS A NATION.

MARY

WELL HE COULD RIP YOU TO SHREDS OVER YOUR VAST MINORITY VOTE IN THE HOUSE IN THE LATE 40S AGAINST SLAVERY EXPANDING INTO TEXAS.

ABRAHAM

WELL THE JUDGE HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMS TO DIG TOO DEEPLY. HE HAS SOUTHERN SENTIMENT TO A POINT. HIS ANTI - BUCHANON APPROACH TO LECOMPTON HAS HURT HIS CHANCES - PROBABLY NOT IN HIS SENATE RUN - BUT WILL IF HE DECIDES TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT IN 1860. HE WILL NOT OBTAIN PIERCE’S SUPPORT WHICH MAY HURT HIM.

MARY

WELL I DON’T THINK THERE WAS ANYTHING NEW IN DOUGLAS’S ATTACKS ON YOU IN JONESBORO. HE ATTACKED YOUR HOUSE DIVIDED SPEECH, ACCUSED YOU OF BEING AN ABOLITIONIST, SAID THAT YOU HAD A NIGGER PLANK, AND THAT YOU ACCUSED HIM OF A CONSPIRACY WITH TANEY AND PIERCE.

ABRAHAM

I FULLY EXPECTED ALL OF THAT. THE JUDGE NEVER DISAPPOINTS. HE IS SO CONSISTENT IN STATING HIS VIEWS. TECHNICALLY HIS POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY DOCTRINE IS MISPLACED AND OUTDATED BY DRED SCOTT. THE SOUTH 3


WILL NOT SUPPORT HIM FULLY IN A PRESIDENTIAL BID EITHER. THEY SEE HIM FOR WHAT HE IS - SPEAKING OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF HIS MOUTH. THE FREEPORT DOCTRINE ALLOWING A NEWLY FORMED TERRITORY TO EXCLUDE SLAVERY PROVES THAT. I’M GLAD WE CONFRONTED HIM ON THAT ISSUE.

MARY

WELL YOU DENIED THE TANEY, PIERCE, AND DOUGLAS CONSPIRACY, AND LED OTHERS TO BELIEVE THAT SLAVERY WILL BECOME EXTINCT IN TIME. AND DOUGLAS’ CLINGING TO THE POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY DOCTRINE IS DEFINITELY NO LONGER TENABLE.

ABRAHAM

WELL I’LL NO DOUBT BE LOSING SOME OLD CENTRAL ILLINOIS WHIG SUPPORT FROM MY STATEMENTS IN JONESBORO. BUT PHILLIPS, THE CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE WHO IS A REPUBLICAN, IS ALSO ESPOUSING OUR VIEWS.

MARY

WELL HITT, THE STENOGRAPHER, HAS BEEN VERY ACCURATE IN HIS RECORDINGS OF THE DEBATES. AMAZING HOW EVERY LITTLE DETAIL HE IS ABLE TO RECREATE IN A NEWSPAPER WITH THAT NEW TECHNIQUE, SHORTHAND.

ABRAHAM

I’M GLAD WE’VE GOT BOTH ILLINOIS AND NATIONAL COVERAGE. GET THE ISSUES OUT IN THE OPEN. YES I HAD TO ADMIT IN JONESBORO THAT UNDER PRESENT UNITED STATES LAW SLAVERY COULD NOT BE PROHIBITED IN THE TERRITORIES. BUT THE JUDGE’S POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY DOCTRINE IS ALSO DEAD. I DO BELIEVE SLAVERY IS ON THE COURSE OF EXTINCTION - WE JUST MAY HAVE TO FIGHT OVER SOME OF THE PRINCIPLES.

MARY

BUT THE JUDGE KEEPS IMPLYING THAT YOU’RE AN OLD WHIG WITH MARKEDLY DIFFERENT VIEWS ON THE TREASURY – THAT YOU OPPOSE OR ARE AN ANTI JACKSONIAN NATIONAL BANK PROPONENT, AND FOR A TARIFF ON OUTSIDE UNITED STATES GOODS.

ABRAHAM

AS I SAID BEFORE, THE JUDGE TELLS HALF TRUTHS FOR VOTES. HE KNOWS I’M NOW A REPUBLICAN; AND THAT IN FACT DEMOCRATS AND WHIGS ACTUALLY CAME TOGETHER ON HIS POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY DOCTRINE DURING THE 1850 GREAT COMPROMISE. BUT IT ISN’T 4


APPLICABLE TODAY; NOR IS MY LEGAL STANCE AGAINST SLAVERY BY THE NEBRASKA ACT OR DRED SCOTT.

MARY

BUT YOU REMAIN MORALLY OPPOSED. THAT IS EVIDENT AND MAY GET YOU SOME VOTES.

ABRAHAM

NOT DOWN HERE AROUND JONESBORO SINCE MANY RELATIVES, FRIENDS, AND SUPPORTIVE BUSINESSES HARBOR SLAVES ACROSS THE MISSOURI AND KENTUCKY BORDERS. THE NORTH HAS BEEN READY FOR ABOLITION FOR YEARS. IT IS THE SOUTH THAT IS STEADFASTLY HOLDING ONTO OLD VALUES AND CUSTOMS. SLAVERY IS THE SCOURGE OF THIS COUNTRY AND EVERY IDEA FROM PHASING IT OUT, APPRENTICESHIPS, AND EVEN WEBSTER’S AND CLAY’S SOCIETY TO SEND FOLKS BACK TO AFRICA HAS MAJOR PROBLEMS. I FEAR A WAR OVER THIS.

MARY

WELL THERE IS MUCH TALK THAT THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IS A DECISION ON SLAVERY FOR OUR COUNTRY. WAR MAY BE INEVITABLE. I KNOW MY FAMILY WAS INVOLVED WITH SLAVES, BUT MY FEELINGS HAVE CHANGED. I’VE BEEN SLOWLY EMANCIPATED ALSO.

ABRAHAM

IT JUST NEVER ENDS - THE AMAZING DIFFERENT AVENUES TO DISCUSS AND PROMOTE SLAVERY. THE JUDGE HARPS THAT WITHIN THE ORIGINAL 13 STATES, 12 IN FACT WERE SLAVE. SEEMINGLY A GOOD POINT WHEN HE REINFORCES IT WITH THE VERMONT MOUNTAINS NOT BEING THE SAME AS A CAROLINA PLANTATION.

MARY

AND YOUR COUNTER PROPOSAL THAT SLAVE WOMEN CANNOT BE SOLD FOR A DEBT IN THE FREE STATE OF ILLINOIS.

ABRAHAM

IT GOES ON AND ON: AND MY SUPPORT OF THE WILMOT PROVISO WHERE I FULLY EXPECTED SLAVERY TO STOP ABOVE AND BELOW THE 36 30 PARALLEL - MISSOURI COMPROMISE LINE. SAD IT DIDN’T PASS.

MARY

AND THE ALLEGATIONS OF YOUR BEING UNCONSTITUTIONAL REGARDING ACKNOWLEDGING AND ABIDING BY DRED SCOTT.

5


ABRAHAM

BUT THE JUDGE’S COMMENTS ON DRED SCOTT ARE DESPICABLE BETWEEN YOU AND ME. HE IS SAYING THAT THE NEGRO IS NOT A CITIZEN BY LAW, IS UNABLE TO SELF GOVERN, AND THE UNITED STATES IS A WHITE MAN’S GOVERNMENT. I DON’T SEE THIS AS PART OF THE UNITED STATES FUTURE. THE FACT THAT THE FOUNDERS MADE NO SPECIFIC REFERENCE TO SLAVERY DOES NOT BY ITSELF DEDUCTIVELY ALLOW FOR SLAVERY TO WITHSTAND ATTACKS FROM A MORAL OR LEGAL PERSPECTIVE.

MARY

BUT LEGALLY WITH THE RECENT FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ACTIONS AND SUPREME COURT, DOUGLAS IS ON FIRMER GROUND THAN YOU IT APPEARS.

ABRAHAM

NO HE IS NOT AND HE KNOWS IT. THE JUDGE HAS IMPLIED THAT MALAYSIANS, INDIANS, NEGROES, AND EVERYONE NOT OF WHITE ORIGIN IS INFERIOR. THERE ARE PROGRESSIVE NUMBERS OF UNITED STATES CITIZENS WHO DISAGREE INCLUDING THE LINCOLN’S.

MARY

WELL WITH THE CANNON FIRE OF DOUGLAS COMING TO JONESBORO AND NEIGHBORING STATES BEING PROSLAVERY, HE IS VERY DIFFICULT TO BEAT DOWN SOUTH. THANK GOD THE CROWDS WERE NOT NEARLY AS LARGE AS OTTAWA OR FREEPORT.

ABRAHAM

WELL IN MY HOUR AND ONE HALF REBUTTAL I FELT I GAINED SOME POINTS WITH SPECIFIC STATES’ RIGHTS THAT SLAVERY WAS A SPECIFIC STATE ISSUE, NOT TO BE DECIDED IN CONGRESS. IT WAS NOT AN ENUMERATED POWER - MORE OR LESS A SOCIAL WELFARE OR INDIVIDUAL STATE ECONOMIC ISSUE.

MARY

I ESPECIALLY ENJOYED YOUR POINT THAT SLAVERY WAS MEANT FOR EXTINCTION BY THE FOUNDERS; AND IT REMAINED BECAUSE OF THE COTTON GIN. AND IT WAS THE JUDGE AND THE DEMOCRATS WHO WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NEBRASKA ACT WHICH FUELED THE PIERCE PRESIDENTIAL WIN OVER GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT - OUR LAST PURE WHIG PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN 1852.

ABRAHAM

YES, I WAS CLEAR ON MANY POINTS IN JONESBORO INCLUDING PROTECTION OF NEGROES WHO ARE 6


FUGITIVES - NOT NECESSARILY REPEALING FUGITIVE SLAVE LAWS, NOT ALLOWING SLAVERY INTO TEXAS TERRITORY WHEN IT BECAME OPEN FOR UNITED STATES SETTLEMENT, AGAINST BONDAGE IN D.C. AND OPENLY AGAINST SLAVERY IN THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED TERRITORIES - ALL OF THEM SINCE THE NEBRASKA ACT NULLIFIED THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE. THIS DATES BACK TO THE NORTHWEST ORDINANCE WHICH MAY IN FACT DISFAVOR SLAVERY LEGALLY IN THE TERRITORIES EVEN THOUGH THE CONSTITUTION, NEBRASKA ACT, AND DRED SCOTT HAVE SUBSEQUENTLY APPEARED. EVEN THE JUDGE’S POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY DOCTRINE APPLICABLE TO TERRITORIES AND STATES ISN’T APPLICABLE ANY LONGER AS I’VE STATED DUE TO DRED SCOTT AND NEBRASKA.

MARY

WELL YOUR POSITION IS UNCLEAR ABRAHAM REGARDING ILLINOIS FREE BLACKS. I HOPE THIS DOES NOT BECOME A SUB ISSUE ON SLAVERY IN THIS SENATE ELECTION.

ABRAHAM

YOU ARE EXACTLY CORRECT. I HAVEN’T SAID MUCH BECAUSE THERE IS NO POSITION TO TAKE WITH THE DRED SCOTT DECISION WHICH I’M OPPOSED TO MORALLY. THE FREE BLACKS ARE IN NO MAN’S LAND - NOT CITIZENS OR PROPERTY. AGAIN THEY’VE BEEN ABLE TO VOTE IN MAINE FOR YEARS IF THEY HAVE A NET WORTH OF $250. AT LEAST THAT LAW IS CLEAR. AND ACTUALLY HOLD OFFICE, RUN A BUSINESS AND BE ESSENTIALLY A CITIZEN.

MARY

AND EVEN THOUGH DOUGLAS OPPOSED BUCHANON ON LECOMPTON, THE KANSAS PEOPLE OPENLY VOTED THE PROSLAVERY CONSTITUTION DOWN 10 - 1.

ABRAHAM

SOME WOULD SAY THAT SUPPORTS THE JUDGE’S POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY DOCTRINE.

MARY

I DISAGREE - ULTIMATELY YOUR HOUSE DIVIDED SPEECH THIS PAST SUMMER WAS THE MOST SENSIBLE THING I’VE EVER HEARD ON SLAVERY. WE AS A NATION CAN NO LONGER EXIST AS BOTH. WE WILL BECOME ONE OR THE OTHER. IT IS SAD THAT THIS ELECTION, AND PROBABLY THE NEXT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IS SO DEPENDENT ON ALL THE SUB ISSUES OF SLAVERY. I CAN SEE CHARLESTON. BUT I HEAR NO CANNONS.

END - CHAPTER IV, PRAIRIE FIRE 7

Prairie Fire, Chapter IV  

A historical fiction dialogue between Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln during the Lincoln Douglas debates of 1858 in script form.

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