It was then that Abraham Lincoln came forward as the champion of freedom.
Stephen A. Douglas was a candidate for reelection to the Senate, and he found it necessary to defend himself before the people of his state for the part he had taken in repealing the Missouri Compromise. He went from one city to another, making speeches; and at each place Abraham Lincoln met him in joint debate.
"I do not care whether slavery is voted into or out of the territories," said Mr. Douglas. "The question of slavery is one of climate. Wherever it is to the interest of the inhabitants of a territory to have slave property, there a slave law will be enacted."
But Mr. Lincoln replied, "The men who signed the Declaration of Independence said that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…. I beseech you, do not destroy that immortal emblem of humanity, the Declaration of Independence."
At last, Mr. Douglas felt that he was beaten. He proposed that both should go home, and that there should be no more joint discussions. Mr. Lincoln agreed to this; but the words which he had spoken sank deep into the hearts of those who heard them.
The speeches of Lincoln and Douglas were printed in a book. People in all parts of the country read them. They had heard much about Stephen A. Douglas. He was called "The Little Giant." He had long been famous among the politicians of the country. It was believed that he would be the next President of the United States.
But who was this man Lincoln, who had so bravely vanquished the Little Giant? He was called "Honest Abe." There were few people outside of his state who had ever heard of him before.
Mr. Douglas returned to his seat in the United States Senate. Mr. Lincoln became the acknowledged edged leader of the forces opposed to the extension of slavery.
In May, 1856, a convention of the people of Illinois was held in Bloomington, Illinois. It met for the purpose of forming a new political party, the chief object and aim of which should be to oppose the extension of slavery into the territories.
Mr. Lincoln made a speech to the members of this convention. It was one of the greatest speeches ever heard in this country. "Again and again, during the delivery, the audience sprang to their feet, and, by long-continued cheers, expressed how deeply the speaker had roused them."
And so the new party was organized. It was composed of the men who had formed the old Free Soil Party, together with such Whigs and Democrats as were opposed to the further growth of the slave power. But the greater number of its members were Whigs. This new party was called The Republican Party.
In June, the Republican Party held a national convention at Philadelphia, and nominated John C. Frémont for President. But the party was not strong enough to carry the election that year.
In that same month the Democrats held a convention at Cincinnati. Every effort was made to nominate Stephen A. Douglas for President. But he was beaten in his own party, on account of the action which he had taken in the repeal of the Missouri Compromise.
James Buchanan was nominated in his stead, and, in November, was elected.
And so the conflict went on.
In the year 1858 there was another series of joint debates between Lincoln and Douglas. Both were candidates for the United States Senate. Their speeches were among the most remarkable ever delivered in any country.
Lincoln spoke for liberty and justice. Douglas's speeches were full of fire and patriotism. He hoped to be elected President in 1860. In the end, it was generally acknowledged that Lincoln had made the best arguments. But Douglas was re-elected to the Senate.