Lincoln attacks slavery
". - - 'A house divided against itself cannot stand.' I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free, I do not expect the Union to be dissolved-I do not expect the house to fall-but I do expect it will cease to be divided."
Lincoln and Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates through the summer and autumn of 1858. In the parched little Illinois towns set in fields of rustling corn, the shirtsleeved farmers and their families waited in wagons and buggies and on foot. Senator Douglas, escorted by the local Democratic club, would drive up in an open carriage and Mount the platform. A sturdy five-footer, full of bounce and swagger, he was known as the "little giant" and he had an enviable reputation as an orator. Every feature bespoke confidence and mastery; every gesture of his body, vigor and combativeness. Abe Lincoln was more likely to approach on foot, his furrowed face and long neck conspicuous above the crowd. His expression, as he turned to the audience, was melancholy. Upon him rested the burden of attack. He was not only challenging Douglas' right to continue in the Senate, but he was also spokesman for a new party. No arguments in the English language had more shrewdness, luminosity, or force than those which the two men presented. And though Douglas was once again elected Senator, Lincoln achieved status as a national figure.
Before long, sectional strife again became acute. John Brown, an antislavery fanatic who had struck a bloody blow against slavery in Kansas three years before, continued to brood over its evils. Aided by a few abolitionist extremists in New England, he now planned a more desperate stroke. Gathering a band of eighteen followers, five of them Negroes, he seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, on the night of October 16, 1859. When dawn came, citizens of the town, armed with a medley of weapons, poured into the village and, with the help of some militia companies, began a counterattack. Brown and his surviving men were taken prisoner. Alarm ran through the nation. For many southerners, Brown's attempt confirmed their worst fears. Antislavery zealots, on the other hand, hailed Brown as a noble martyr to a great cause. Most northerners, however, repudiated the exploit, for they saw in it an assault not against the south but upon all organized society and upon democratic methods of securing progress. Brown was tried for conspiracy, treason, and murder, and on December 2, 1859, he was hanged, to the end believing himself an instrument in the hands of God.
This incident merely served to intensify the differences existing between north and south from the country's earliest days and now firmly fixed in the pattern of the developing nation. The south was almost wholly rural. Much of the north had become urbanized. The north believed in tariffs on manufactured products to protect the growth of industry; the agricultural south detested them. The north was inter, ' ested in a quicker distribution of the public lands to small holders. A mighty demand for free homesteads to all settlers was arising. "Vote yourself a farm!" became a popular cry, The south wished to see the national domain held and sold only for good prices. The north wanted an efficient national banking system; the south was hostile to a centralized bank Socially the north, where a sturdy middle class had developed was more democratic than the south, where the slaveholding oligarchy held most of the wealth and power.