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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChildren Of The Market Place - Chapter 28
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Children Of The Market Place - Chapter 28 Post by :otto_jurscha Category :Long Stories Author :Edgar Lee Masters Date :May 2012 Read :1137

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Children Of The Market Place - Chapter 28

CHAPTER XXVIII

Scarcely had Douglas settled as Secretary of State, when he resigned the office to become Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois. Abigail wrote me a most amusing and ironical letter on this sudden shift of his activities. "What do you think now?" was her query. "I think he is as well fitted to be judge as to be Secretary of State, which is not at all."

When I wrote to Abigail I had news to tell her with reference to the farm. I believed I had found a purchaser in Springfield; and my trading talks with Washburton, for that was his name, had taken me over there a number of times. On one of these occasions I saw Douglas. He had been presiding over a proceeding that had something to do with the Mormons, in which he favored them. He was charged with placating their interests to win them to his political fortunes. "It was nothing of the sort," said Douglas. "I only did my duty. What have I to gain by favoring them? There are a great many more people who hate them than those who have any use for them. Even my enemies know that. Do you know they say, Jim, that I grabbed this judgeship by some high-handed method. It's all a lie. I can do nothing to please some people. They don't like my conduct on the bench. You know how crude things are here. My throne is a platform with a table; and the audience sits so close to me that I can almost touch them. The other day I walked off the platform and sat for a moment with one of the spectators, an old friend. Somebody wrote this up for the newspaper and made a terrible fuss about it. I cannot please some people, no matter what I do."

It was the winter and spring of 1841 that I was visiting Springfield about the sale of my farm. President Harrison had died after a month in office, and John Tyler had become President. Douglas was elated over this. "Tyler is a Democrat," said Douglas. "And we have taken victory out of defeat after all. He has vetoed the new bank bill true to the principles of Jackson; and he has been read out of the Whig party for doing so. Every member of his Cabinet but Webster has resigned, you know. The Whigs are getting nothing out of the triumphs of log cabins and hard cider. They are all a humbug. Their sins are finding them out. We will put in a thorough-going Democratic party in 1844."

Douglas was talking the annexation of Texas. "Think of it," he said. "A territory 750 miles broad added to the domain of this country! The whole continent by right belongs to us. Do you think, if we once get it that there will be any whining that we should give it up? You have seen Illinois filling up; you have seen canals and railroads make their beginning here. Let's do the same for Oregon. I want you to rid yourself of any feeling for Great Britain, and use your English will to the making of America. Do for America what you would do for England, if you were living there. She would take the whole earth if she could get it. Let us take all of North America.

"I am planning to run for Congress again. I am stifled in this little life. There is not enough for me to do here. I am restless to get out and help build up the West."

I asked Douglas if I should move to Chicago. His eyes brightened. "Yes," he said in his quick way. "That is a place of great opportunity. Go there, Jim. I will be there myself, eventually. You can become very rich there with the capital that you have for a start."

Then I told him that I was trying to sell the farm; that I had about matured my plans to move. He was delighted. "I'll miss you here, but a friend is a friend to me, even up there. Go and build. You can help make a city. I want to see this state come into its own. I want to see schools everywhere, giving the advantages to the young which were denied to me. This is the most wonderful of states. Be glad that your destiny brought you here. At the present rate of immigration the population of Illinois will soon be a million. When you came here the population of the United States was about twelve million; now it is about seventeen million; it will soon be twenty million. Do you appreciate these figures? Look at the New Englanders, the Irish, the Germans that have poured into Illinois. Some of them come here with ideas that I find hostile to my ambitions. I have to win them to the liberty of the Democratic party, and keep them from stopping halfway, contented with the fraudulent liberty of the Whigs. I take them in hand at political gatherings; I love to persuade and shape them. I will fill this population of Illinois with love of Democratic ideas. What have the Whigs to offer? Look at the mixed blood of the Whigs, at their tainted ancestors. I take the greatest pleasure in exposing them. It is my fun and my work."

With all this intellectual activity, Douglas was not a reader. I had found Emerson through Abigail; I read the _North American Review_, and Cooper's novels as they appeared. But Douglas had contempt for the moral idealism of New England. He thought it impractical. "You can't have a brain without a body," said Douglas. "Let the country develop its bones, its muscles, attain its stature. These men think the world is run by righteousness, especially if you let them prescribe the righteousness. But it isn't. It is run by interests. Roofs, clothing, and food must be taken care of; then cities. These men get preconceived ideas of God, and then want to force them on the great impulses of life. But they can't do it."

I ventured to say that the two ran together. His reply was that nothing of idealism counted that did not harmonize with material interests. There would always be war so long as interests conflicted. The lesser had to give way to the larger. War was a factor in the game of supremacy, of life. If Great Britain stood in our way, fight her. If Mexico made trouble about Texas, conquer her. War is the execution of the law of progress. Reason can go only so far, and then the sharpness of the sword is necessary.

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