Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “The Galesburg Debate,” October 9, 1858

    Source citation
    “The Galesburg Debate,” Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, October 9, 1858, p. 1: 1.
    Newspaper: Publication
    Chicago Press and Tribune
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    The Galesburg Debate
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    Newspaper: Column
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    Don Sailer, Dickinson College
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    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.
    The Galesburg Debate.

    Like a whale in his “flurry,” Mr. Douglas, pierced to the very vitals by the barbed harpoons which Lincoln hurls at him, goes around and around, making the water foam, filling the air with roars of rage and pain, spouting torrents of blood, and striking out fiercely but vainly at his assailant, who seems to enjoy the noble sport in which he is engaged. The victim, doomed soon to receive from the people a political coup de grace, strives to get out of the narrow circle which he at first described; but seems condemned by the fate which he has long defied, to yield up his official life within the ring which he has marked out. We mean that Mr. Douglas, giant as he is reputed – a very whale for strength – when set upon by a man of real power and dialectic skill!, displays more painfully than ever before his utter incapacity for a prolonged and arduous fight. The poverty of his cause and the barrenness of his arguments were brought to light early in the contest; but no one supposed – not even Mr. Douglas’ bitterest enemy – that, with his fertility of invention and his audacity of assertion, he would go from end to end of this great State, and mortify his friends and gladden his enemies by daily repeating the stale harangue with which he set out. To change the figure, he is a school boy speaking his piece; a ranting player, mouthing well known verse, here today and there to-morrow; a jester in the circus, who makes, under all circumstances, the same mock harangues, and repeats the same doleful jests. We confess our disappointment, and at the same time express our regret, that Mr. Lincoln is matched with one whose efforts do no bring into full play all our candidates’ powers. The debate is getting to be a farce on Mr. Douglas’ side at least. He has exhausted himself; he is played out. His oft repeated and more frequently refuted charges, though serious at first, do not now even amuse. The stories of the Lincoln and Trumbull conspiracy, and of the deliberate Africanization of the Whig and Democratic parties by the agency of Lovejoy, Farnsworth, and Washburne; the Ottawa fraud, and that more delectable, because more odorous subject involved in Nigger Equality and Amalgamation; laudations of “my great measure,” and lamentations over the loss of “my place”; charges that Trumbull is a liar and a sneak, though made piquant by much self-praise; elaborate and ingenious dodging between Popular Sovereignty and Dred Scott; the same old diatribes against the Danites; the threadbare and willfully false misrepresentations of Republicans and the Republican creed and policy, no longer excite a smile or provoke a frown. We are not surprised that our subscribers, hither and yon, are daily writing to us to desist – to give them no more. They have learned his speech by heart; at least they could erect the frame work, and by use of epithets and abuse, supply all that memory could not furnish.

    How different our candidate! He never speaks that he does not bring forward something new – some forcible argument or impressive fact, some eloquent appeal or irresistible persuasion – in support of the positions that he at first assumed. His quiver is always full, his magazine abundantly supplied. He opens the door at every debate to a higher and wider discussion of political theories and governmental practices which hear upon the momentous question at issue. He leads the way; but Douglas will not follow. Examination of fundamental principles is not the giant’s role. He set out equipped only with vulgar abuse, a volume of epithets, and a never-tested capacity for misrepresentation, as the weapons, offensive and defensive, with which he would do battle. We confess his skill in their use; but they are only pop-guns compared with the batteries that Lincoln has at command, and which are doing such destructive work in the pro-Slavery ranks.

    The late debate at Galesburgh [Galesburg] is sufficient proof of all we say. In it, Mr. Douglas gives new evidence of the narrowness of his intellectual range, of the shallowness of his cause, and the poverty of his defenses; while Lincoln, in bold and grateful contrast, displays such copiousness of fact and illustration, such power of logic, and such a triumphant cause, that we regret that he has an opponent who is no more than an infant in his hands. With a statesman in Mr. Douglas’ shoes, capable of coping with his adversary, the debates in progress would become land-marks in the history of parties. But, though Lincoln is engaged, he is pitted against a charlatan, who never yet has conceived and uttered a sentence worthy of record. We must accept the debates as they are, and be thankful that we are near the end.
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