By mid 1850s, Abraham Lincoln was quite experienced, but almost unknown to the country’s population politician. Lincoln’s origin and his reputation of an honest man, led to him being elected for four terms in the State Legislature and one in the US Congress, as well as made the the former Whig one of the prominent representatives of the Republican Party and almost their main speaker. His chief opponent in the Democratic camp was an experienced federal politician Stephen A. Douglas, also a native of Illinois. Douglas has long championed the doctrine of popular sovereignty fighting for the rights of settlers to the territory of their own, through a referendum, to decide important questions of existence. First, their right, according to Douglas, extends to the question of slavery in the territories.
The opposition of the radical and the republican impersonated by Lincoln and Douglass developed during the period of Civil War and ended up in a friendship of two great persons of their time.
Lincoln accused Democrats and Douglas personally that they moved away from the principles of the "founding fathers", while Republicans continue to adhere to them, and indicated that the "Founding Fathers" considered the slavery as moral, social and political evil. The Republican Party insisted that this government was established to protect the liberty, and that slavery is an unqualified evil for blacks, whites, and State lands. Considering this wrongdoing, the Republican were not willing to persuade the states where the slavery already existed but they would do everything possible that this practice would not become stronger and develop in other states. Lincoln insisted on his doctrine of impossibility of existence of the country where half of the states have slavery regime, while half do not, when he for the first time expressed it in his famous speech "Divided House" in June of the same year. According to him, Douglas was not only "not looking for how to end the institution of slavery" but, on the contrary, "he was looking like it would perpetuate and spread all over the country".
In turn, Douglas attacked the doctrine of the "Divided House" for the fact that he really did not understand why the country cannot continue to exist, divided into slave and Free states. If Lincoln believed that, it cannot go on, he had to fight for the states to make them either all free or not, but in any case, a struggle would inevitably lead to the disintegration of the Union. Douglass claimed that speaking about the final disappearance of slavery was revolutionary and destructive for the existence of the government of that time period. He mentioned that by such sayings, Lincoln meant a war between the North and the South, driven by the ruthless vengeance up until one of the parties would not be pressed against the wall, and become a victim of greed on the other hand. Considering the ideas of the "Founding Fathers", that regardless of their own relationship to slavery, they, according to Democrats, have given to the states complete freedom of action.
Douglas did not leave aside the Republican statement on equality of blacks and whites. Playing on the racist attitudes of listeners, he said that the authors of the Declaration of Independence did not mean blacks or any other lower and underdeveloped race, while mentioning the equality of people. Trying to influence people’s minds with respect to the consequences that equal rights for blacks and whites will bring, Douglas called on to vote for Lincoln, if they wanted thousands of freed slaves from Missouri settled in Illinois and become its citizens and voters, the same as those people who listened to him.
Lincoln had to defend. He said that the blacks, as well as whites, have the same natural rights written in the Declaration of Independence, which is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, at the same time, he made an example about the black woman, he said that he did not understand why he had to take her for a wife, if he did not want black woman was a slave? Lincoln had a very interesting and quite careful position in with respect to his point of view about the slavery and racism. He always said that he was not and had never been a supporter of the achievements to some degree of social and political equality of the white and black races. He had never been a supporter of Negroes as voters or jurors, or allowing them to hold public office, or intermarriage with whites, more than that, he also mentioned that there was a physical difference between the races, which, in his opinion, would never make it possible for two races to live together on the conditions of social and political equality.
Douglas also drove Lincoln into a corner by a one more question: if Lincoln predicted final disappearance of slavery, how he was going to bring this idea to life? Lincoln repeatedly claimed during the debate that he had no intention of directly or indirectly interfering in the situation with slavery in the states where it existed. Besides, in order to clarify things, he stated that when he spoke about the final disappearance of slavery, it was emphasized that he always had in mind that it would not happen in a day, not in one year and not even two years later. He always said that he did not believe that the peaceful eradication of slavery can take place in the timeframe of less than a hundred years, but he hoped that this would happen in the best way for both races, and in time allotted by the Lord, as James Oakes mentions it in his book.
Lincoln made a statement saying that “Slavery was doomed, and it was the slaveholders who made it so”. What he meant was that, the attitude towards the slaves was antihuman and he had a chance to see the dark side of slavery during the period of his first employment. Hatred, sentencing and tortures that were directed towards the slaves made the concept of slavery the greatest evil of all times for the United States. People who were ordinary slaveowners regarded their slaves as not human creatures, but just workers that had no freedom, no right for normal life and had to live in a constant fear to be beaten up or killed if they make their work badly or decide to disobey their master.
Lincoln knew that slavery is the dark side of life and slaves are also humans who should have their right to live and to free, as well as have a chance to aim for their happiness in life. He knew that indignation among the blacks was growing and sooner than later, it will result in a massive wave of uprisings that would seek confrontation with the slaveholders. Besides, he had the initial negative attitude toward the slavery and was against it. Although he was constantly speaking of having no intention to abolish slavery in the states where it was legal, but he was repeatedly against the spread of slavery to other states, the free ones. He also knew that the humanity had to wait not a day or even years, but almost a hundred years to abolish slavery in all states of the Union.
In this point, I agree with Lincoln’s point of view, as he was moderate in his speeches and the population of the United States was not offended, neither free whites nor blacks who were still slaves at that moment.
James Oakes points out that in the process of emancipation of slaves during the Civil War, Lincoln faced a number of challenges, one and the most significant of which was the separation of states. Lincoln understood that the main step to make the Union become one solid piece again required either freeing all the states from slavery or the opposite. He was not supporting slavery so he had to find a way to abolish it. This was not an easy task as the slavery states were not willing to refuse having free labor force. Lincoln now understood that his initial idea of consecutive and compensative emancipation of slaves required instead actions that were more radical. Thus, on December 30, 1862 he proclaimed the emancipation of slaves. This step helped him to change the course of the Civil War and to enlarge the army by more than 180 thousand of black soldiers who volunteered.
Lincoln and Douglass had one thing in common – they were against the abolitionists and they were willing to unite all states in the US. However, while Lincoln was rather moderate, active but careful in his speeches, Douglass instead was active, direct and rather wild in his expressions. Besides, he had stronger racist points of view and was not willing to put the blacks in the same social position as whites; he was always putting an emphasis on that in his speeches. At the same time, Lincoln was more tactical and used to say that he wanted slaves to be free and have their own chance for happiness in life, but without having the right to be the governors, jurors or being able to occupy other leading social positions, as well as being involved the interracial marriages.
By 1865, Lincoln and Douglass eventually built a mutual friendship due to the reason that on the edge of the Civil War that was going to start Douglas has come to Lincoln and offered his help. Lincoln read to him the proclamation about the appeal to join the army to the population of United States asking for 75 thousands of people. Douglas gave him advice – to ask for 200 thousand of people, because he knew better the real aims of the rebels. Since that time the two politicians who were enemies for 20 years became close friends.
According to James Oakes, later, after Lincoln’s death Douglass became an active member of Republican party, we changed his wilderness into presenting his ideas to the society having the trust to Lincoln as a supportive instrument behind his back. Douglass also considered Andrew Johnson a dignified candidate to be elected into the Congress and supported his ideas, according to James Oakes.
In such a way it becomes evident that people can change their ideas and come to a friendship with their enemies in the course of time.