Douglas at Belleville – A Bad Speculation.


Tuesday, September 21, 1858.

Mr. Douglas spoke at Belleville, in St. Clair county, on the 10th. All accounts agree, that the whole affair was tame and spiritless. The following account from the St. Louis Democrat is verified by others:

If the numbers which assemble to hear the speeches of a candidate were a rare indication of the result of the election, no very favorable auguries could be drawn by the friends of Senator Douglas, from the Belleville meeting yesterday. Twelve hundred would be a liberal estimate of that meeting, and four hundred of these were Missourians. We believe the city of Bellville contains a population of eight or ten thousand, and consequently could have poured out a larger audience to hear the distinguished Senator, if the political opinions of her citizens were all in harmony with his. – Nor did the intensity of the enthusiasm make up for the mediocrity of numbers. Certainly all preparations for kindling and calling forth the popular feeling, had been made. There was a procession which dragged its disjointed length along the principal streets. There were mounted marshals, a brass band, and a piece of cannon, and more potent than all the brilliant charms of Mrs. Douglas and other ladies. The Senator's speech was very similar to the recent ones he has delivered, and which have been so widely published. As an oratorical effort, though an able one, it was inferior to many which he has made. He commenced with a well planned, well executed movement to gain the Whigs, whose vote may be all important in deciding the issue of the pending election as it did the issue of the election for Governor and Presidential electors. When he had exhausted the topic he entered on a strain of vigorous invectives against the Republican party, which he kept up to the close, sometimes digressing but always on cognate themes. His purpose was to pursuade his auditors that the Republican party designs to elevate the negro to political and social equality with the whites. He appealed incessantly to the pride of race, assuming throughout that negro equality is the fundamental maxim of the Republican creed. His unscrupulousness, adroitness, audacity of assertion, falsehood and perverse construction of the Republican principles were conspicuous in every portion of his speech.

The Dred Scott decision was a topic on which he dwelt, but curious enough, he confined himself to that part of it which declares the non-existence of negro citizenship. This he supported with a few facts and a flow of declaration. The relations of territorial communities to slavery he did not once glance at, and this was a remarkable omission, for his views on that subject, notwithstanding his Freeport speech, are not yet sufficiently defined. He made no allusion to the Administration, and but a passing allusion to the Know Nothings. From beginning to end he coolly assumed that he was the embodiment and standard-bearer of the National Democratic party. He was totally oblivious of the fact that the President is thundering excommunications against him every day through the columns of the Union, and giving the offices which were held by his friends to his enemies, because they are his enemies.