Perhaps no anecdote ever told of Mr. Lincoln illustrates more forcibly his "longheadedness" in laying plans, not even that incident when he asked the "Jedge" a question in his debate with Mr. Douglas, which may be told as follows:
One afternoon during that joint debate Mr. Lincoln was sitting with his friends, planning the program, when he was observed to go off in a kind of reverie, and for some time appeared totally oblivious of everything around him. Then slowly bringing his right hand up, holding it a moment in the air and then letting it fall with a quick slap upon his thigh, he said:
"There, I am going to ask the ‘Jedge’ (he always called him the ‘Jedge’) a question to-night, and I don’t care the ghost of a continental which way he answers it. If he answers it one way he will lose the senatorship. If he answers it the other way it will lose him the Presidency."
No one asked him what the question was; but that evening it was the turn for Mr. Douglas to speak first, and right in the midst of his address, all at once Mr. Lincoln roused up as if a new thought had suddenly struck him, and said:
"Jedge, will you allow me to ask you one question?"
"Certainly," said Mr. Douglas.
"Suppose, Jedge, there was a new town or colony just started in some Western territory; and suppose there were precisely 100 householders—voters—there; and suppose, Jedge, that ninety-nine did not want slavery and one did. What would be done about it?"
Judge Douglas beat about the bush, but failed to give a direct answer.
"No, no, Jedge, that won’t do. Tell us plainly what would be done about it?"
Again Douglas tried to evade, but Lincoln would not be put off, and he insisted that a direct answer should be given. At last Douglas admitted that the majority would have their way by some means or other.
Mr. Lincoln said no more. He had secured what he wanted. Douglas had answered the question as Illinois people would have answered it, and he got the Senatorship. But that answer was not satisfactory to the people of the south. In 1860 the Charleston convention split in two factions and "it lost him the Presidency," and it made Abraham Lincoln President.