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All the time that Lincoln was at the bar he was interested, as was every patriot, in the politics of his country and watched the progress of the slave power with feelings of which the above incident gives the key. Yet he was growing more and more fond of his profession, and the time had not yet come when, like a soldier marching to the front, he would leave everything for the battle of arguments in defence of the liberties of his country-the "Battle of the Giants," it was justly called.
THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES.
At the time of the Revolution all the States tolerated slavery and allowed the slave-trade, that is, the bringing of more slaves from Africa. But many of the most prominent patriots, Washington among them, disapproved of slavery and thought it ought to be, and would be gradually abolished; they feared that it would cause confusion to do this at once. But a majority of public opinion demanded that the "necessary evil," as they called slavery, should cease. And the Ordinance of 1787 passed by Congress establishing government in the Territories had in it an article "ordaining the immediate and perpetual prohibition of slavery," in the Territories. In a few years also the slave trade was to cease; and then slavery would gradually die out. The founders of the republic saw how inconsistent it was to fight for one's own freedom and then enslave other men.
Under the Ordinance of 1787, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were added to the Union as free States; they had been part of the Territories. After this for about a whole generation the North and the South were evenly balanced as to power; for of the eight new States, four were north of the Ohio River and were free-Vermont, admitted in 1791; Ohio, in 1802; Indiana, in 1816; Illinois, in 1818. But Kentucky, admitted in 1792; Tennessee, in 1796; Louisiana, in 1812; and Mississippi in 1817 were slave States; and Alabama was also to be admitted as slave.
But then the South was not satisfied; it wanted more slave States; and after much discussion in Congress, it was decided that the "Louisiana purchase," that great strip of land bought from France and running from the Gulf to the Great Lakes, should be divided; the part south of latitude 36° 30' should be slave; and that part north of this line should be free; Missouri should be admitted as a State, part slave and part free as the line 36° 30′ ran through it; and Maine should be admitted as a free State. This act was approved in March, 1820, and became the famous "Missouri Compromise." So, the old motto of the framers of the Constitution, "no extension of slavery" was thrust aside
until the Republicans brought it to the front in 1860.
The South having brought in Arkansas a slave State, began to see that after they had Florida, which was admitted in 1845, there was nothing more for them to have as things stood then. So, by means of the Mexican war a large territory was taken from Mexico, larger than Texas rightfully was, and annexed to the United States, and Texas came in as a slave State, the largest State in the Union at that time. Then there was a bitter fight in Congress over the Territories of New Mexico and California which had come as part of the country gained by the war with Mexico. The South wanted to stretch the line of the Missouri Compromise out to the Pacific Ocean taking away the provision of 1787 for free Territories and making New Mexico slave and California half slave and half free, as the line 36° 30′ ran across the State. At last, for the sake of peace and to save the Union, for the South threatened to secede if it did not have its way, a compromise was agreed upon. Congress admitted California as a free State; organized the Territories of New Mexico and Utah as they had come from Mexico which had forbidden slavery; abolished the domestic slave trade in the District of Columbia; and passed a more severe
fugitive slave law; and gave Texas ten million dollars to adjust her State boundaries. This was the compromise of 1850. Neither North nor South liked it; but both accepted it for peace.
In 1833 when Stephen A. Douglas came to Illinois he was twenty years old and penniless. First he was a clerk; then he taught school; he began to practice law the second year, and at twenty-two was elected attorney general of the State; in 1835 he was elected member of the Legislature; and it was here that he and Abraham Lincoln met for the first time. In 1840 he was secretary of State for Illinois; in 1843 he was elected to Congress and re-elected in 1844 and 1846. Before he took his seat under the last election he was elected to the United States Senate. In 1850, during the discussion of the compromise measures in the Senate, Douglas had especially defended the "Missouri Compromise." The year before that he had said it had "an origin akin to the Constitution" and the American people held it as "a sacred thing which no ruthless hand would ever be reckless enough to disturb."
But in 1852 he was talked of as candidate for President, and was voted for in the Democratic National Convention held at Baltimore, June, 1852; and although he did not receive the nomi