Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
highlight hits: on | off

Speech at Havana, Illinois [1]

August 14, 1858


I am informed, that my distinguished friend yesterday became a little excited, nervous, perhaps, [laughter] and he said something about fighting, as though referring to a pugilistic encounter between him and myself. Did anybody in this audience hear him use such language? [Cries of yes.] I am informed, further, that somebody in his audience, rather more excited, or nervous, than himself, took off his coat, and offered to take the job off Judge Douglas' hands, and fight Lincoln himself. Did anybody here witness that warlike proceeding? [Laughter, and cries of yes.] Well, I merely desire to say that I shall fight neither Judge Douglas nor his second. [Great laughter.] I shall not do this for two reasons, which I will now explain. In the first place, a fight would provePage  542 nothing which is in issue in this contest. It might → establish that Judge Douglas is a more muscular man than myself, or it might → demonstrate that I am a more muscular man than Judge Douglas. But this question is not referred to in the Cincinnati platform, nor in either of the Springfield platforms. [Great laughter.] Neither result would prove him right or me wrong. And so of the gentleman who volunteered to do his fighting for him. If my fighting Judge Douglas would not prove anything, it would certainly prove nothing for me to fight his bottle-holder. [Continued laughter.]

My second reason for not having a personal encounter with the Judge is, that I don't believe he wants it himself. [Laughter.] He and I are about the best friends in the world, and when we get together he would no more think of fighting me than of fighting his wife. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, when the Judge talked about fighting, he was not giving vent to any ill-feeling of his own, but merely trying to excite---well, enthusiasm against me on the part of his audience. And as I find he was tolerably successful, we will call it quits. [Cheers and laughter.]


One other matter of trifling consequence, and I will proceed. I understand that Judge Douglas yesterday referred to the fact that both Judge Trumbull and myself are making speeches throughout the State to beat him for the Senate, and that he tried to create a sympathy by the suggestion that this was playing two upon one against him. It is true that Judge Trumbull has made a speech in Chicago, and I believe he intends to co-operate with the Republican Central Committee in their arrangements for the campaign to the extent of making other speeches in different parts of the State. Judge Trumbull is a Republican, like myself, and he naturally feels a lively interest in the success of his party. Is there anything wrong about that? But I will show you how little Judge Douglas's appeal to your sympathies amounts to. At the next general election, two years from now, a Legislature will be elected which will have to choose a successor to Judge Trumbull. Of course there will be an effort to fill his place with a Democrat. This person, whoever he may be, is probably out making stump-speeches against me, just as Judge Douglas is. It may be one of the present Democratic members of the lower house of Congress---but who ever he is, I can tell you he has got to make some stump speeches now, or his party will not nominate him for the seat occupied by Judge Trumbull. Well, are not Judge Douglas and this man playing twoPage  543upon one against me, just as much as Judge Trumbull and I are playing two upon one against Judge Douglas? [Laughter.] And if it happens that there are two Democratic aspirants for Judge Trumbull's place, are they not playing three upon one against me, just as we are playing two upon one against Judge Douglas? [Renewed laughter.]


[1]   Chicago Daily Press and Tribune, August 20, 1858. This is the most complete report available, but the Tribune specifies that following these introductory remarks Lincoln spoke for two hours, touching on ``negro equality and amalgamation,'' and ``the conspiracy to Africanize the American continent.''

highlight hits: on | off