Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Debates with John Calhoun and Alfred W. Cavarly in Springfield, Illinois [1]

March 20-25, 1844

This being the first week of our Circuit Court, arrangements have been made by the public speakers, of both parties, to devote the evening hours, to the discussion of the great questions involved in the coming Presidential election. . . . Judge CAVARLY. . . . quoted . . . from a speech of Mr. Stuart, [2] made in Congress, an admission that the consumer of imported articles paid the duty. . . . This only bright spot in Mr. Stuart's speech, so disturbed Mr. Lincoln, that he promised to forfeit his ``ears'' and his ``legs'' if he did not demonstrate, that protected articles have been cheaper since the late Tariff than before. . . .

. . . . Mr. Calhoun's first speech on Wednesday evening was . . . unanswerable. . . . Though Mr. Calhoun triumphantly established the first proposition, yet Mr. Lincoln had the hardihood to assert that it might probably fall upon the manufacturer, after Mr. Calhoun had shown that it positively fell upon the consumer. . . . Mr. Lincoln very candidly acknowledged his inability to prove that the tariff had anything to do with the late low prices throughout this country and Europe. . . .

Page  335There has been an interesting public discussion at the Court Room, on the political questions which divide the country, every evening of last week and Monday evening of this week. Mr. Cavarly of Green, lead off; and was followed by Wm. Brown, Esq. of Morgan---the two occupying two evenings. Mr. Calhoun followed Mr. Brown, and he by Mr. Lincoln, and these gentlemen continued the discussion five evenings.

The discussion has been well attended, and we readily accord to Mr. Calhoun due praise for making most of a bad cause. The efforts of Mr. Lincoln, were distinguished for ability, and in all candor we must say, that we did not discover a single position raised by Mr. Calhoun, that he did not entirely demolish.

Annotation

[1]   Illinois State Register, March 22, 29, 1844; Sangamo Journal, March 28, 1844.

[2]   John T. Stuart.