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  1. #1
    unpakwon is offline Senior Member
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    Default field of ambition

    Please make the following in red clear for me.

    "Ambition has been ascribed to me," Lincoln said. "God knows how sincerely I prayed from the first that this field of ambition might not be opened (1). I claim no insensibility to political honors; but today, could the Missouri Compromise be restored, and the whole slavery question replaced on the old ground of 'toleration' by necessity where it exists (2), 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 (3), so long as we both or either, live.

    I'm not sure what (1) is saying.
    Does (2) mean "if slavery is maintained only in the states where it is necessary on the old ground of 'toleration?"
    Does (3) mean "I'll never run for any public office"?

    Thank you.

  2. #2
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    probus is offline Key Member
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    The ambition Lincoln refers to in 1 is the ambition to abolish slavery. In 2 he is saying that if that ambition could be replaced by a policy of tolerating slavery where it currently existed while opposing its spread, then 3 (his conclusion) Judge Douglas should hold office rather than Lincoln. Evidently Douglas believed that 2 was possible and Lincoln did not.

    Lincoln's language is old-fashioned.

  3. #3
    unpakwon is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: field of ambition

    Quote Originally Posted by probus View Post
    The ambition Lincoln refers to in 1 is the ambition to abolish slavery. In 2 he is saying that if that ambition could be replaced by a policy of tolerating slavery where it currently existed while opposing its spread, then 3 (his conclusion) Judge Douglas should hold office rather than Lincoln. Evidently Douglas believed that 2 was possible and Lincoln did not.

    Lincoln's language is old-fashioned.

    Thank you for the answer.

    Still, I'm not quite sure of (1). Especially, what do "field" and "opened" mean in the sentence? The whole sentence is confusing.

  4. #4
    probus's Avatar
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    Instead of Lincoln's words we would nowadays say something like: I had earnestly hoped that the whole debate over slavery would not be reopened.

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