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MR. PRESIDENT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN :
The man who could command fitting terms and proper words in which to speak of Douglas, would indeed be an Orator. The man, who in reading the public life of Douglas, is capable of comprehending in all their fullness, the purposes, the aims and the plans of his wide-spread policy, would indeed be a Statesman. And to speak of Douglas and of Douglas' great deeds, as they deserve, will demand another Douglas—for he was both Orator and Statesman-unrivaled, because in oratory and statesmanship he was his own model and his own example.
I am neither Orator nor Statesman; and, therefore, have no expectation of doing justice to the subject. I am here, fellow-citizens as a substitute, called upon at the last moment, to supply, very indifferently, the place of others, who, being capable, unfortunately having been prevented from being present.
When the traveler hears, in his old age aná retirement, the name of some distant city, village or land which had been familiar to him in his journeys, how his eyes will brighten, and the blood course more warmly through his heart, as that name recalls scenes of love, of peril, of pleasure, or of storm. And to you, gentlemen, who were his political friends, and you who served with him in the establishment and conduct of this University, and to us all of Chicago, and of Illinois, will not, until the latest days of our lives, the name of Stephen A. Douglas carry back memories to days when he stood a tower of strength in the national edifice, and we found happiness and honor in resting at his feet ?
And now, what shall I say of him? What shall I say of him whose name and achievements are familiar to us all ? Shall I
say to you that he was intellectually great ? That fact is recorded in enduring characters upon the history of his country-characters carved by himself mid the storms of controversy, the heat of popular anger, the tumult of popular passion, as well as in the hours of national peace. STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS was a man not only intellectually great, but gifted with a mind that was extraordinarily active. Trace him from the day, when having mastered his letters at his mother's knee, he was sent with his sister to the village school, down to the last moment before death stilled forever the massive, active brain, and you find that the mind of Douglas not only took in the present in its comprehensive grasp, but also and always, sought to penetrate that future, in which for the honor and glory of his country, he hoped and determined to bear an active and honorable part. He was rarely, if ever, merely quiescent. He rarely, if ever, gave a partial, cold or a careless support to any measure of public policy; he was either the firm and persevering and ardent advocate, or he was the firm and persevering and ardent opponent. His mind was so constituted, that even when surrounded by counsellors and friends urging him to a policy that would result in his own personal advancement, he could not govern his acts, control his speech, or regulate his movements by any thought of personal advantage; and hence it was that there was forever coming up from the lips of professional politicians
the complaint that just as everything had been fixed, and every plan and preparation made for his elevation, Douglas would, by some speech, letter or act blow their whole scheme to atoms, and dissipate all their hopes of ever reaching power and place through his statesmanship. If there be any present who ever participated in party struggles with him, they will, I am sure, verify the truth of what I have said. He was forever knocking over the paper houses and pasteboard castles which the professional politicians of his party were erecting for his benefit; and he did so because his mind was of that practical nature which rejected everything and all things that would not survive the severe test and crushing pressure of fixed and imperative principle.
He was remarkable for the almost instantaneous judgments he formed and expressed upon all propositions; he never wavered; he rarely doubted; and never changed his conviction. This peculiarity has been the subject of complaint from friend, and has served to poison many a shaft from an adversary's bow. Political friends, whose notion of political navigation is to keep forever in smooth water, and never go out of sight of land, always considered Douglas an unsafe leader, because, instead of looking at new questions, with the view of taking such course as would avoid a storm, and keep the cargo of spoils safely stowed, he would promptly decide the matter upon its merits, and calling on all who dare defend the right, boldly launch out to meet the gale, and battle with its consequences.
And why, fellow-citizens, did Mr. Douglas act thus? that it was because he had the most unbounded confidence in the people. He believed, and the conviction had become part of his nature, that the popular heart was honest, that the popular mind was intelligent, and that time and reason would inevitably bring an honest and intelligent people to an appreciation of the right; and that a people thus led to appreciate and approve, would in
the end prove far more reliable citizens, and a surer bulwark for the Union than a people cajoled by sophistry into a hasty endorsement of a policy, which, not having been examined and adopted by reason, might, at any moment of popular excitement be as hastily abandoned.
The great secret, or, the great means which enabled him to decide with such apparent rapidity and accuracy, upon all points of national politics, consisted in nothing more nor less than that he tried all such questions by certain principles. As parallel lines must be equally distant from each other at all points, and cannot be parallel if otherwise, so if any measure or policy or doctrine deviated even to a hair's breadth from the iron rule by which he marked the line of duty and of patriotism, then, to the extent of that deviation, be it great or small, that measure, or policy, or doctrine, in his judgment, was wrong.
But do not let me be understood as saying that his judgments were after the Procrustean style. He did not say a thing should be so short or so long, so broad and so narrow; but he said the north star indicated the true pole, and that that compass that turned to the right or to the left, and pointed elsewhere than to the starry beacon, fixed from all time by God's own unerring hand, was a false compass, and, together with the pilot who persisted in its use, ought to be thrown overboard, and sunk into the sea.
It has been popular at times, with the enemies of Mr. Douglas, to charge him with truckling to the slave interest. Never, never, was there greater injustice. I speak of this not to vindicate his party fidelity, nor his patriotism, but to vindicate from an ungenerous aspersion, his powerful intellect. He truckle to any one! He stoop, and be mean and sordid! It was impossible for him to
He despised, and held in utter abhorrence that system of political bondage which held free-born men of intelligence as servitors at the stirrup of those who claim by prescription the privilege of riding rough shod over all who thronged the high road of life. He was a FREEMAN in the fullest sense of the term. He resisted the aggressive claims of slavery, and with equal power the aggressive aims of the abolitionists. He could not unite with either wholly, because he held both to be wrong. He stood manfully beside slavery when slavery claimed what the constitution granted it; he stood as manfully with the abolitionists in resisting slavery when it demanded more than the constitution granted. But he would stand by neither slavery nor abolitionism when they sought to go beyond the constitution. Had slavery been content with what the constitution granted it, it would have been an easy task to crush out abolitionism. Had abolitionism sought only to confine slavery by the limits of the constitution, it would have been as easy to crush out the wild advocates of extra constitutional privileges. Mr. Douglas labored to bring either of these adverse factions to a constitutional theory and practice, and would have succeeded, had he not been betrayed, even in the hour of success, by men who were ready to sacrifice themselves and country for the wretched satisfaction of ruining him.
Mr. Douglas never, I say it confidently, yielded one iota of principle to slavery. His intellect forbade it. His whole political system was like a delicately constructed apparatus, in which the motive power, as well as mechanical agents were principles so intimately connected and harmoniously arranged, that were he to withdraw a single spring, or pivot, or wheel, or other part, no matter how minute, the whole fabric would fall to pieces, a total wreck and ruin. He took pride in being the architect of his own famema fame gained in spite of opposition, and those who knew him intimately know that there was always a greater probability of his seeking and provoking hostility than truckling or yielding to avoid it. He was brave; he was confident; he knew the power of his own great intellect; and it is unnatural to suppose that