Higher than Haman

Stephen Douglas Vanity Fair cartoon
Douglas as snake charmer, with snakes labeled “Anti-Lecompton”, “Old Line Whigs”, “Republicans”, “American” and “S. American”

Douglas, as mentioned earlier, stumped throughout the country to try to hold the Union together (and possibly to get elected, though that was looking like a long shot) . He had a tough assignment, as he was trying to hold together a wide variety of political factions with a nuanced position on slavery. On August 28, 1860, he spoke to a crowd in Petersburg, VA; he then headed to Raleigh, NC, on August 30, where he gave a speech reported in the New York Times :

A resolution was passed instructing the electors to vote for DOUGLAS; but if he cannot command a majority of the Electoral College, then to vote so as to throw the election into the House. If this cannot be done, they are to vote so as to prevent the election of a sectional President.

The proceedings were marked with the greatest unanimity and good feeling, and the Convention is declared to be one of the finest meetings of the Democracy of the State that has assembled there within sixteen years. A number of able speeches were made, predicting that DOUGLAS would carry the old North State.

At 4 o’clock, P.M., DOUGLAS addressed the delegates to the Convention and the citizens of Raleigh from the east portico of the Capitol. He was introduced by the President of the Convention. A large number of ladies were present. He spoke for nearly two hours, denouncing the Breckinridge Party as a disunion party, and his remarks were frequently interrupted by cheers.

Douglas’s speech was indeed long. I’ve clipped here the most famous excerpt (click on it for the whole speech in Google Books):

Douglas’ threat to hang secessionists “higher than Haman*” didn’t go down well in the South, needless to say.

*In the book of Esther, Haman was a councilor of King Ahasuerus who planned to kill all the Jews in the kingdom, but who was instead hanged by the King. The average speech-goer in 1860 knew his or her Bible better than today’s crowd would.

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One Response to Higher than Haman

  1. Pingback: 9/12 Seward in Boston, Douglas in Norfolk, and Southern outrage | Seven Score and Ten

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