David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 218-219.
At Freeport, Lincoln was clearly more in charge than he had been at Ottawa, only a week earlier. Before this sympathetic “vast audience as strongly tending to Abolitionism as any audience in the State of Illinois,” he turned first to answering the interrogatories Douglas posed at Ottawa. His answers contained no surprises…Then, finally taking the offensive, he posed to Douglas four questions of his own – four questions that were much like those that his Chicago advisers had recommended. First, would Douglas favor the admission of Kansas before it had the requisite number of inhabitants, as specified in the English bill? Second, could “the people of a United States Territory, in any lawful way,…exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State Constitution?” Third, would Douglas acquiesce in and follow a decision of the Supreme Court declaring that states could not exclude slavery from their limits? Finally, did he favor acquisition of additional territory “in disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the slavery question?” The second was the key question. Through advisors like [Joseph] Medill urged him to raise it, Lincoln had hesitated before asking it. He was in no doubt about how Douglas would answer it; and, just as he expected, Douglas promptly replied that the passage of “unfriendly legislation” could keep slavery out of any territory because “slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations.”… But by showing how greatly at odds Douglas was with the National Democracy, Lincoln risked undermining his basic argument that Douglas was part of a broad conspiracy to extend and perpetuate slavery. Nevertheless, pressed to take the offensive and realizing that this question might rattle his opponent, Lincoln decided to include the question.