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Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lincoln Springfield Speech (Guelzo, 2008)

Scholarship

Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 85-86.

But it was noticeable that Lincoln devoted far more of his Springfield speech to defending himself than to refuting Douglas – defending the House Divided speech, denying that he was preaching “consolidation and uniformity” in wanting to see slavery “placed in the course of ultimate extinction,” denying that he was inciting the North “to disturb or resist” the Dred Scott decision, denying (at the end) that he wanted “to make negroes perfectly equal with white men in social and political relations.” This was the kind of rhetorical posture that befitted a civil lawyer whose long suit was the logical analysis of torts and trespasses. But Lincoln was not in front of a jury now, and he was not facing a man for whom the fine points of consistency weighted much against the thrill of accusation. As in war, so in politics: the victory more often went not to those who conducted good defenses but to those willing to risk, to seize the initiative, and to hold it by any means necessary. On those terms, his follow-up on Douglas’s strategy was not working, and people were starting to tell him so. John Mathers, a brick manufacturer in Jacksonville, was a total stranger to Lincoln; yet even he wrote Lincoln that “if Douglass can only succeed in keeping you defending yourself all the time he will have accomplished his object…Would it not be better…to cease to defend, & occupy the side of the assailant, and keep this position until the close of the fight.”
How to Cite This Page: "Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lincoln Springfield Speech (Guelzo, 2008)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/16721.