The Universal Meaning of the Declaration of Independence
THE long political duel between Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln was above all a struggle to determine the nature of the opinion which should form the doctrinal foundation of American government. No political contest in history was more exclusively or passionately concerned with the character of the beliefs in which the souls of men were to abide. Neither the differences which divided Moslem and Christian at the time of the Crusades, nor the differences which divided Protestant and Catholic in sixteenth-century Europe, nor those which arrayed the crowned heads of Europe against the regicides of revolutionary France were believed by the warring advocates to be more important to their salvation, individually and collectively. Vast practical consequences flowed from the differences in all cases, but we could not understand the meaning of the differences if we did not first see them as the men who fought for them saw them, as having absolute intrinsic importance, apart from all external consequences.
"Swinging up and down and back and forth across Illinois, making the welkin ring and setting the prairies on fire, Lincoln and Douglas debated -- what? That is the surprising thing," says Professor Randall.
With all the problems that might have been put before the people as proper matter for their consideration in choosing a senator -- choice of government servants, immigration, the tariff, international policy, promotion of education, west-