Recollection by Carl Schurz , Freeport Debate, August 27, 1858

Source citation
Carls Schurz, The Reminscences of Carl Schurz (2 vols; New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1917), 2: 98-99.
Date Certainty
Adapted by David Park, Dickinson College
Transcription date
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.

I was deeply impressed by the democratic character of the spectacle I had witnessed in Illinois. On the whole it had strengthened my faith in the virtue of the democratic principle, although it had also made me more sensible of some of the dangers attending its practical realization. Here were two men, neither of whom had enjoyed any of the advantages of superior breeding or education. One of them, Lincoln, had in fact risen from home conditions so wretched that a faithful description of them severely taxes our credulity—conditions ordinarily apt to clog the intellect and to impede the development of all finer moral sensibilities. Neither of the two men had received any regular schooling calculated in any manner to prepare a person for the career of a statesman. Neither of them had in any sense been particularly favored by fortune. Neither of them had, in working his way upward from a low estate, any resource to draw on but his own native ability and spirit. But here they were, in positions before the country in which their ambitions could, without any overleaping, aim at the highest honors of the Republic. One of them, Douglas, had risen by rapid but regular political advancement to a Senator- ship of the United States, and had, by his contact with the great world, acquired, if not the true refinement, at least some of the outward polish of " good society." His rise had been effected, perhaps, not altogether by blameless means, but at any rate mainly by the force of his own intellect and the exercise of his own energies. The other, Lincoln, had not been quite so successful in achieving official station, but he had won a singular influence over the minds of large numbers of people by the power of his own mind and the virtues of his own character— and this while the outward rusticity of his early life still clung to him, and was in a large sense a part of his being. Each one of them was truly a child of the people. Each had won his remarkable eminence because each had, in his way, by his own effort, deserved it. And these men now contended for the mastery by appealing to the intelligence and the patriotism of the people—the one, perhaps, largely by the arts of the demagogue, seeking to befog the popular understanding where he could not, to his advantage, honestly enlighten it; the other, perhaps, by candid truth-telling and grave appeals to conscience—but both by addressing themselves to the minds of the people, whose opinion, lawfully expressed, was by both recognized to be the only legitimate source of all power.

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