Finale of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
October 30, 1858
My friends, today closes the discussions of this canvass. The planting and the culture are over; and there remains but the preparation, and the harvest.
I stand here surrounded by friends -- some political, all personal, friends, I trust. May I be indulged, in this closing scene, to say a few words of myself. I have borne a laborious and, in some respects to myself a painful part in the contest. Through all, I have neither assailed nor wrestled with any part of the Constitution. The legal right of the Southern people to reclaim their fugitives I have constantly admitted. The legal right of Congress to interfere with their institution in the states, I have constantly denied. In resisting the spread of slavery to new territory, and with that, what appears to me to be a tendency to subvert the first principle of free government itself, my whole effort has consisted. To the best of my judgment I have labored for and not against the Union. As I have not felt, so I have not expressed any harsh sentiment toward our Southern brethren. I have constantly declared, as I really believed, the only difference between them and us is the difference of circumstances.
I have meant to assail the motives of no party or individual; and if I have, in any instance (of which I am not conscious), departed from my purpose, I regret it.
I have said that in some respects the contest has been painful to me. Myself, and those with whom I act, have been constantly accused of a purpose to destroy the Union; and bespattered with every imaginable odious epithet; and some who were friends, as it were but yesterday, have made themselves most active in this. I have cultivated patience, and made no attempt at a retort.
Ambition has been ascribed to me. God knows how sincerely I prayed from the first that this field of ambition might not be opened. I claim no insensibility to political honors; but today could the Missouri restriction be restored, and the whole slavery question replaced on the old ground of "toleration" by necessity where it exists, with unyielding hostility to the spread of it, on principle, I would, in consideration, gladly agree that Judge Douglas should never be out, and I never in, an office, so long as we both or either live.