I positively deny that he is my brother…

This report from one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates ran in The Liberator on October 15, 1858. In the last section the editors tried to convey a sense of the audience response in parenthetical asides.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were running for one of Illinois two Senate seats. That election featured frequent speeches by both candidates and a series of seven debates known as The Lincoln–Douglas Debates of 1858 or The Great Debates of 1858. The debates previewed the issues that Lincoln would face in the aftermath of his victory in the 1860 presidential election.

Although Illinois, itself, was a free state, the main issue discussed in all seven debates was slavery in the United States.

William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator was a weekly abolitionist newspaper published in Boston. The paper held true to the founder’s ideals. Garrison was a journalistic crusader who advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves and gained a national reputation for being one of the most radical of American abolitionists.

Stephen A. Douglas, in reply to his opponent, Mr. Lincoln:

We are told by Lincoln that he is utterly opposed to the Dred Scott decision, and will not submit to it for the reason, as he says, that it deprives the Negroes of the rights and privileges of citizens.

For one, I am opposed to Negro citizenship in any form. I believe that this Government was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am in favor of confining the citizenship to white men—men of European descent, instead of conferring it on negroes and Indians, and other inferior races. But Mr. Lincoln, following the land of the Abolition orators that come here and lecture in the basement of your churches and schoolhouses, reads in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created free and equal, and then says; ‘How can you deprive the negro of that equality which God and the Declaration of Independence award to him?’ He and they maintain that Negro equality is guaranteed by the laws of God, and reasserted in the Declaration of Independence. If they think so, they ought thus to vote.

I do not question Mr. Lincoln’s conscientious belief that the Negro was made his equal, and hence is his brother. But for my own part, I do not regard the Negro as my equal and I positively deny that he is my brother, or any kin to me whatever.

I canvassed the State that year from the time I returned home until the election came off, and spoke in every county that I could reach during that period. In the northern part of the State, I found Lincoln’s ally, in the person of Fred Douglas, the Negro, preaching abolition doctrines, whiles Lincoln was discussing the same principles down here, and Trumbull, a little farther down, was advocating the election of members to the legislature who would act in concert with Lincoln’s and Fred Douglas’s friends.

I witnessed an effort made at Chicago by Lincoln’s then associates, and now supporters, to put Fred. Douglas, the Negro, on the stand at a Democratic meeting, to reply to the illustrious Gen. Cass, when he was addressing the people there. (Shame on them.) They had the same Negro hunting me down, and they now have a Negro traversing the northern counties of the State, and speaking in behalf of Lincoln. (Hit him again; he’s a disgrace to the white people, &.) Lincoln knows that when we were at Freeport in joint discussion, there was a distinguished colored friend of his there then, who was on the stump for him, (shouts of laughter,) and who made a speech there the night before we spoke, and another the night after, a short distance from Freeport, in favor of Lincoln, and in order to show how much interest the colored brethren felt in the success of their brother Abe. (Renewed laughter.)I have with me here, and would read if it would not occupy too much of my time, a speech made by Fred. Douglas in Poughkeepsie, N.N., a short time since, to a large convention, in which he conjures all the friends of negro equality and negro citizenship to rally as one man around Abraham Lincoln, the perfect embodiment of their principles, and by all means to defeat Stephen A. Douglas. (It can’t be done, &.) Thus you find that this Republican Party in the northern part of the State had colored gentleman for their advocates in 1854, in company with Lincoln and Trumbull, as they have now.

Fifty Years Later

On August 8, 1908 Frank Leslies’ Weekly ran a two page feature about the debates and included the photos and captions shown below.

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, published from 1855 to 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.

A century after the debates, the US Postal Service issued the commemorative four cent  stamp shown at the top of this blog post.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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