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Great Days In Dayton
Half Slave, Half Free


“Great Days in Dayton”

Reproduced on these pages is the full script of a “Great Days in Dayton” broadcast.  All music  and sound effect “cues” are indicated just as they appear on the working scripts used by the cast. The sponsor hopes that you will find interesting these dramatized episodes from the life story of your city.


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Theme.  Starts fortissimo, then fades behind…

ANNOUNCER:  “Great Days in Dayton!”

   MUSIC  [Swells and fades behind…]


ANNOUNCER:  Again we bring you a chapter from Dayton’s history.  Again the years roll back, taking us to the Dayton of a century ago, showing us how our civic forefathers shaped and guided the town’s progress, and laid the foundation for the Dayton that we know today.  Our sponsors, The Dayton Power and light company, feel that they have had a part in that progress during the long years when they have supplied electric light and power, and city steam service, to the homes, businesses and industries of Dayton. They are proud to have contributed to our city’s development.  And it is their hope that the presentation of these historical dramas may inspire present-day Daytonians to still stronger civic faith, still greater civic achievement.  (PAUSE.)  And now…here is your master of ceremonies, Mr. Charles McLean, who will introduce you to the drama we present today.


   MUSIC:  [Swells and fades behind…]

McLEAN:  Our historical plays have now progressed a half a century from the beginnings of Dayton.  The little cluster of log cabins on the banks of the Miami has grown into a thriving town.  The stage coach, the canal, the railroad…all have come to Dayton, bringing new contacts with the outer world, new citizens to help with Dayton’s development.  And now we come to the 1850’s, a period when all America faced the ominous problem of slavery.  Our country was divided…in its interests, its prejudices, its passions.  And it is from this sharp cleavage that we take the title of today’s play, “Half Slave, Half Free.”  The time is about 1855.  The opening scene is in the offices of the Dayton Journal.  Will Comly, the publisher, is talking with his assistant editor, Richard Landis.



COMLY:  You’d think, Dick, that with Ohio a free state and abolition sentiment very strong, we wouldn’t get any open objection to an anti-slavery editorial like we published this morning, but I’m expecting delegations from both the manufacturing and labor organizations.  I’ve had them before.

DICK:  And you’re getting them again.  Here come Russell Harper and George Scott.

  [Door opens.]

HARPER:  Good morning, Will.

COMLY:  Good morning, gentlemen.

SCOTT:  Will, we’d like to talk to you…alone.

COMLY:  If you mean Dick Landis, here, fire ahead.  He wrote the editorial you’ve come to talk about.

HARPER:  He did?

DICK:  Yes, I’m guilty.

SCOTT:  But, Will, you’re the publisher, so we feel that you’re really responsible.

COMLY:  So do I.

HARPER:  All right, then.  We’re speaking for the manufacturers of Dayton, and we object to…

COMLY:  You’re not speaking for all of them.  I know.

HARPER:  Maybe not, but we’re speaking for a lot of influential ones.  We don’t like your abolition editorials.  Slavery may be morally wrong, but that’s the business of the people in South, where slavery exists.  Our point is that abolition would disrupt the whole industrial structure of the country.

COMLY:  That may be true, but Dick’s editorial was discussing the moral side of the question.

SCOTT:  That’s not the point, Will.  It’s a practical question.  There isn’t a manufacturer in the North who doesn’t find a rich market among the wealthy cotton and sugar planters of the South. Abolition would ruin that market.

HARPER:  It would ruin the North, too.  If the planters were forced to free their slaves and pay them wages, the price of cotton would go sky-high.  Every mill in the North would suffer.  The whole cost of living would rise tremendously.

DICK:  Suppose I write another editorial, quoting what you gentlemen have just said.

SCOTT:  Quoting us, you mean?

DICK:  Yes.

HARPER:  Certainly not.

DICK:  But these are your honest opinions.  Why should you object to having them published?

SCOTT: Well…

COMLY:  I’ll tell you the trouble, gentlemen.  You know that the real issue of slavery is a moral one.  You don’t want to come out publicly on the wrong side of that, but you want us to in our editorials.

HARPER:  No, we don’t, Will.  We want you to stop printing any editorials about slavery.  Just let the question alone.  It’s none of our business here in the North.

COMLY:  The question of the freedom of man is some of my business as long as I’m publishing this paper.

DICK:  And mine, too, as long as I’m writing editorials.

SCOTT:  Very well, but you’ll see that there’ll be a lot of trouble here in Dayton.

DICK:  Gentlemen, you don’t know how much trouble.  I get around a lot, listening to people talk, and I know the strength of the anti-slavery feeling.

HARPER:  All right, if you won’t listen to reason.  Good morning.

COMLY:  Come in again any time, gentlemen.  (PAUSE.)

DICK:  And here comes your next delegation, Will.  Tom Watson and Arthur Moss, representing labor.

WATSON:  [Coming on.]  Will Comly, the labor trades of Dayton have had about enough of your anti-slavery editorials.  We…

COMLY:  Take it easy, tom.  Sit down, Arthur.

MOSS:  We mean business, Will. We’re the ones…the carpenters, brick-mason, mechanics and other workers…who’ll suffer if slavery is abolished.

WATSON:  You don’t know what it would mean to us.  Thousands of freed slaves coming up from the South, swarming all over Ohio. Wages would go down to where none of us could make a living.

COMLY:  I think you exaggerate that danger, Tom.  Most of the slaves would stay in the South, even if they were freed.

MOSS:  They’re not doing it now.  There are run-away slaves coming into Ohio all the time.  And that’s another thing.  The other paper here publishes fugitive slave notices…helps get the slaves back to their owners.  But the Journal doesn’t.

COMLY:  And it won’t.  What’s more, we’ll not stop publishing anti-slavery editorials.

WATSON:  You’ll see.  There’ll be a lot of trouble over this.

COMLY:  That’s the second time I’ve been told that today.  And I think it’s true.

MOSS:  Come on, Tom.  We can’t do any good here.

COMLY:  Good morning, gentlemen.

  [Door slams.]

DICK:  Here’s one of their fugitive slave notices now.  Look at it.  A picture of a run-away slave with a bundle over his shoulder.  Fifty dollars reward, it says.

COMLY:  Yes, fifty dollars.  Fifty dollars for the body and soul of a man.  And a lot of people think that’s all right because he’s black instead of white.

DICK:  Say…wait…a…minute! Did you read all of this?


DICK:  [Reads.]  A likely slave named Ben, five feet six inches high, weighs about one hundred and fifty pounds.  Good table servant. Safe with children.  Has scar across left cheek from ear to nose.

COMLY:  Well?

DICK:  Will, I think that’s the Ben who works for me.  This notice comes from Tennessee, and so does Ben.

COMLY:  Now, Dick, don’t get excited. That’s probably a coincidence.

DICK:  But the description fits him perfectly…height, weight, scar and all.  I’ve got to protect him somehow.

COMLY:  Here give me that notice.  [Paper tears.]  That’ll take care of that.

DICK:  For now, yes.  For our paper.  But the other paper will publish it. And then what?  Ben’s worked for a lot of people during the year he’s been in Dayton.

COMLY:  Well, now, Dick, you know there’s not a decent citizen in town that would turn Ben in.

DICK:  But they’re not all decent.  And what I’m really worried about is the Federal officers.  They’re thick now in Ohio…have been ever since the new Fugitive Slave Law was passed.

COMLY:  I know, and that makes it hard.  Ohio is free soil, but the Federal government holds that a slave is property and can be returned to his owner, even from a free state.

DICK:  I might send him away…send him to Canada by the Underground Railroad.  But he wouldn’t want to go.  And I don’t want to lose him.  He’s honest and reliable…the best servant we’ve ever had.

COMLY:  Why don’t you try hiding him for a few days?  Ed Denby would take him.  He runs the Underground station here.  He’s hidden a lot of run-away slaves in his house on Jefferson street.

DICK:  Maybe that’s the thing to do.  [Music: Fades in and out…] 

   [Door opens.]


DICK:  Hello, Mary, dear.  Hello, children.

CHILDREN:  Hello, Daddy.  Daddy, come and play with us, will you?

MARY:  Why, Dick, you’re home early.  Supper won’t be ready for another hour.

DICK:  I know, but I thought I’d better come anyway.  You children run and play by yourselves for a little while.  I want to talk to your mother.  (PAUSE.)  [Children’s voices recede.]  Mary, where’s Ben?

MARY:  He’s out back, splitting stove wood.  [Alarmed.]  Dick, Ben isn’t in trouble, is he?

DICK:  Not yet, anyway.  But we had a fugitive slave notice at the office today, and the description fits Ben perfectly.

MARY:  Oh, Dick, you won’t let them take him, will you?

DICK:  Not if I can help it.  The Journal’s not publishing the notice.  Will Comly tore it up.  But there may be Federal officers looking for Ben.  I’m going to warn him  (PAUSE.)  [Calls off.]  Oh, Ben!

BEN:  [Off.]  Yassuh, Marse Dick.

DICK:  [Off.]  Come in here.  (PAUSE.)

BEN:  [Coming on.]  Yessuh, hyar I is.

DICK:  Ben, you came up here from Tennessee, didn’t you?

BEN:  I don’ jest rightly remember, Marse Dick. [Alarmed.] Dey ain’t no white folks from de South lookin’ for old Ben, is day?

DICK:  There may be.

BEN:  But I’s free, Marse Dick, I’se free!

DICK:  You’d better tell me the truth, Ben.  You ran away, didn’t, you.  (PAUSE.)

BEN:  Yassuh.  But Marse Dick, you ain’t gong’ to let ’em take me back, is you?

DICK:  I hope not.

MARY:  We’re gong to try to help you, Ben.

BEN:  Oh, thank de Lawd!  Marse Dick, it’s true.  I done run away.  Man that owned me was powerful hard on his slaves, beatin’ ’em and all.  Beat me ’most to death.  I couldn’t stand it no longer.  So I run away at night an’ hid in de hills for ’most two weeks, whilst day was lookin’ fo’ me with the dogs.  Then, after that, I come on up through Kentucky, travelin’ nights, and swum across the river down below Cincinnati.  ’Fore de Lawd, Marse Dick, dat’s de truth.  I didn’t do nothin’ wrong, ’cept to run away when dey beat me.

DICK:  I believe you, Ben.  And we’re going to try to keep you here with us.

BEN:  But Marse Dick, ain’t I free here?  Folks say dey cain’t be no slaves in Ohio.

DICK:  That’s right.  But the government officers can take a run-away slave back down South if they find him.

BEN:  An’ you cain’t stop ’em, Marse Dick?

DICK:  I’m afraid not…not if they find you.  [Children suddenly burst out crying.]

BOY:  Daddy, Daddy, don’t let them take Ben away!

MARY:  Children, I thought you were outside playing!

GIRL:  Mamma, we don’t want Ben to go away.  He’s good to us.  Oh, Mamma!  [Crying becomes louder.]

MARY:  Children, you must stop crying.  And come with me right away.  Mother will tell you all about it later.

GIRL:  But, Mamma, why…

MARY:  Come now, both of you.  [Crying recedes.]

DICK:  Now listen, Ben.  I want you to do just what I tell you.  Do you know where Mr. Ed. Denby lives, on Jefferson street.

BEN:  Yassuh, Marse Dick, but I don’ never go near that house ’cause folks says its de Underground station, and I don’ want no one to think I’s hidin’.

DICK:  Well, you’ll have to go there now.  Mr. Denby will hide you for a few days, and after that it may be safe for you to stay here.

BEN:  Yassuh, Marse Dick, only please don’ make me go away from Dayton.  I wants to stay here with you and Mis’ Mary and de chillun.  You don’ have to pay me nothing’.  I’ll work for you jest like I was your slave.

DICK:  You won’t have to, Ben.  I think…[Loud knocking on door.]  S-h-h!  [Knocking repeated.]  [Whispers.]  Ben, get out right now.  Go the back way.  Tell Mr. Denby I sent you.  Hurry!

BEN:  I sho’ will!  [Hurried footsteps]  (PAUSE.)  [Door closes.] 

DICK:  Who’s there?

KENYON:  Open up!  (PAUSE.)  [Door opens.]

DICK:  What do you want?

KENYON:  Are you Richard Landis?

DICK:  Yes.  Who are you?

KENYON:  My name’s George Kenyon.  And this is my partner, Jack worth. We’re Federal officers.

DICK:  Yes?

KENYON:  We’re coming in and search your house.  We think you’ve got a fugitive slave working for you.

DICK:  Have you a warrant?

WORTH:  Yes, sure.  You can read it while we’re looking around.

DICK:  I’ll read it before you come in.  Give it to me.

KENYON:  We’re in a hurry.

DICK:  Get back, you.  I said I’ll see your warrant first.

KENYON:  All right, Jack, give him the warrant.  (PAUSE.)  [Paper crackles.]

DICK:  You can come in now.  [Footsteps.  Door closes.]

KENYON:  You might as well turn him over to us, Landis.  We know he fits the description in our warrant.

DICK:  Have you seen him?

WORTH:  No, but folks here in town have told us.

DICK:  You hear a lot of things in any town.

KENYON:  You don’t want to help us, eh?  We could arrest you for interfering with Federal officers.

DICK:  I’m not interfering, and you know it.  But if you want to stumble into a false arrest, go ahead.

WORTH:  Stop arguing, George, and let’s search the place.

DICK:  I’ll go with you.  [Footsteps.]  (LONG PAUSE.)

KENYON:  Well, he’s not here; that’s sure.

WORTH:  Where is he, Landis?

DICK:  I told you I’m not answering any questions.

KENYON:  All right, we’ll get along without your help.  We know where to look for him.

DICK:  Then you’re wasting your time here.  [Footsteps.  Door closes.]

MARY:  [Coming on.]  Dick, do you think they know where to look?

DICK:  I’m not sure.  There are some people in town who would turn Ben in for the fifty-dollar reward. And they might know about Denby’s house.  We’ll have to trust to luck now.  [Music:  Fades in and out.]



KENYON:  It’s so dark I can hardly see, Jack, but this must be the house.  [Knock on door.  Pause.  Door opens.]

DENBY:  What do you want?

KENYON:  Your name Ed Denby?

DENBY:  Yes.

KENYON:  We’re Federal officers.  Here’s a warrant to search your house.  (PAUSE.) [Paper crackles.]

DENBY:  All right, come in.  [Footsteps.  Door closes.]

KENYON:  Denby, we know your house is a station on the Underground, and that you’ve got a fugitive slave here.

DENBY:  You do?

WORTH:  You might as well bring him out, because we’ll find him.

DENBY:  Then go ahead and search it.

KENYON:  Jack, you stay here while I look around.  [Voice recedes.]  I’ll try the cellar first.

WORTH:  Denby, we ought to take you along with us for harboring this slave.

DENBY:  You’d have to prove that I knew he was a slave…that is, if he is one, and if you find him.

WORTH:  We’ll find him all right.  (PAUSE.)

KENYON:  [Coming on.]  No one down there.  I’ll try the attic.  [Footsteps up stairs.]  (PAUSE.)

WORTH:  You worried, Denby?

DENBY:  Why should I be?  I know my rights, and if you try to violate them you’ll be the ones who are worried.  (PAUSE.)  [Clatter off.]

KENYON:  [Off.]  I’ve got him.  [Footsteps down stairs and on.]  Here he is.  You can tell he’s the right one, just to look at him.

BEN:  Don’t let ’em take me!

DENBY:  There’s nothing I can do now, Ben.  But we’ll see what can be done tomorrow.

KENYON:  Come along, you.

BEN:  Don’ let ’em take me!  [Recedes.]  Don’ let ’em take me!  [Music: Fades in and out.]



COMLY:  We’ve come to you, Judge Holt, as a committee representing what we think are the best interests in Dayton.  There are Dick Landis and myself, of the Journal; Mrs. Landis, Mrs. Comly, and all the rest of these men and women, representing our churches and schools.  Isn’t there anything that can be done to prevent this Federal action?

HOLT:  I’m afraid not, Mr. Comly.  The identification seems to be positive, and the Federal law is very clear.

MARY:  But, Judge Holt, this will be a tragedy.

HOLT:  Yes, Mrs. Landis, it seems that to me, but unfortunately it’s the law.

MRS. COMLY:  But there must be something we can do.

HOLT:  I wish there were, Mrs. Comly.

DICK:  How about the money I’ve offered to pay for Ben, so I can free him and keep him here in Dayton.

HOLT:  You can make the offer, Mr. Landis, but Ben’s owner is at liberty to decline it, as he has.

COMLY:  This may be a matter of life and death, Judge.

HOLT:  As a practical matter, I should think not.  The man is a valuable slave alive.  His owner would be very foolish to kill him.  (PAUSE.)  You know, of course, all of you, that you have my personal sympathy.  I am sure that if a fugitive slave appealed to me for assistance, I should be unable to resist my impulse to give it to him, law or no law.  But here an actual arrest has been made, with due process of law.  I am therefore compelled to say, under the solemn duties of my official position, that no legal interference is possible in this case.  The federal officers will be permitted to take the prisoner to Cincinnati by train this afternoon.  [Mixed voices.  Men angry, women tearful.]  [Music:  Fades in and out.]



  [Engine bell.  Hissing steam.]  [Angry crowd sound.]

VOICE 1:  [Off.]  All aboard!

VOICE 2:  Let’s take him away from them!

VOICE 3:  Lynch them!  Lynch them!

KENYON:  Stand back, all of you, stand back!  Get him on the last car, Jack.  I’ll hold them off.  [Crowd sound up.]

VOICE 1:  [Off.]  All Aboard!  [Train starts.]  [Crowd sound recedes.] [Train sound continues behind…]

KENYON:  that was pretty close, Jack.  I was afraid we were going to have to start shooting.

WORTH:  So was I.  It made my hair stand on end.

KENYON:  These abolitionists are getting stronger and stronger.  We’ll have some real trouble on our hands sooner or later.

WORTH:  Yes, and it’s a funny thing.  While there are still a lot of people opposed to abolition, and even opposed to having freed slaves in the Northern states, there’s mighty few who are willing to see a run-away arrested and taken back.

KENYON:  When we get him to Cincinnati, we’ll take him to a cheap boarding house I know.  That’ll attract less attention than putting him in jail.  And we won’t take him across the river until late tonight.

WORTH:  That suits me.  I don’t want any more mob scenes like the one we just left.  [Train sound fades.]  [Music: Fades in and out.]


  [Table sounds.]

WORTH:  You sure picked out the worst boarding house in Cincinnati.  This food is something awful.

KENYON:  Yes, but it’s a place where no one asks any questions.  You’d better go upstairs and see how he is.

WORTH:  Shall I take him some of this stew?

KENYON:  He can eat if we can.  [Chair scrapes.]  [Footsteps up stairs.]  (PAUSE.)  [Key turns in lock. Door opens.] 

WORTH:  [Sharply.]  Here you!  Come away from that window!

BEN:  [Hysterically.]  I ain’t goin’ back. ’Fore Gawd, I ain’t.  I ain’t goin’ back to the beatin’ and the misery!

WORTH:  Come here, I tell you, or I’ll give you a beating right now.

BEN:  You cain’t, you cain’t!  There ain’t nobody goin’ to beat Ben no more!

WORTH:  Look out!  You’ll fall! You’ll kill yourself!  [A long cry, receding, suddenly ending.]  (PAUSE.)  [Appalled.]  He jumped!  He jumped!  (PAUSE.)  [Hurrying footsteps.]  [Shouts.]  Kenyon!  Kenyon!  Come up here!  [Music:  Fades in and out.]



MARY:  [Sobbing.]  I can’t believe it, Dick. It doesn’t seem possible that Ben would kill himself.

DICK:  He must have known what he was going back to, even better than we did.

MARY:  And the children are broken-hearted.  I wasn’t going to tell them, but they found out from other children at school.  They came home in tears.

DICK:  Yes, it’s stirred up a lot of feeling.  Everyone in town is talking about it.

MARY:  You should hear the women.  I think their feelings are stronger than the men’s. They all want to go to the anti-slavery rallies at Reverend Fuller’s meeting house.

DICK:  I’d rather you wouldn’t, Mary…not just now, anyway.

MARY:  Why not?

DICK:  I’ll tell you when I know a little better, myself.  I’ll have to go to the office now.  Good-bye, dear.

MARY:  Good-bye, darling.  [Music:  Fades in and out.]



COMLY:  Good morning, Dick.  Glad you’re here.  You know the Reverend Luther Fuller, don’t you?

DICK:  Oh, yes.  How are you?

FULLER:  Tolerable, young man, tolerable.

COMLY:  Sit down, Dick.  We’re talking about the visit of Dr. Gordon.  He’s going to speak at Reverend Fuller’s meeting house.

DICK:  Yes, I know.

FULLER:  You don’t seem very enthusiastic, young man.  Dr. Gordon is the most powerful abolitionist speaker in America.

DICK:  That’s why I’m not so enthusiastic.

FULLER:  And what might you mean by that?

DICK:  I mean that I think this is a time for moderation.  I’m as deeply opposed to slavery as anyone and…

COMLY:  That’s right, Reverend Fuller.  He is.

DICK: …and I know that slavery must be abolished sometime, somehow.  But I don’t think violent abolition crusading is the way to do it. 

FULLER:  Are you trying to defend the vile institution of slavery?

DICK:  No, but some pretty good people will defend it. They’re Southerners, but they’re as good as we are.  Slavery has been rooted in their lives for a hundred years.  They don’t think it’s wrong; they think it’s right.  And most of them aren’t cruel.  They care for their slaves better than the slaves could care for themselves.

FULLER:  Mr. Comly, sir, this is outrageous!

COMLY:  Well, now, I can’t agree with you there, Reverend Fuller.  I agree with Dick that some tolerance is needed.

DICK:  It is if America is going to avoid civil war.  And it’s needed in Dayton right now, if we’re going to avoid serious trouble.  Feeling on both sides has been at fever pitch ever since Black Ben killed himself.  If Dr. Gordon makes a violent speech, there my be rioting and bloodshed.

FULLER:  But this is a crusade, young man.  Without bloodshed we couldn’t have had the great crusades of the Middle Ages.

DICK:  And just what did they get us?

FULLER:  Well, they…er…they…

DICK:  That’s my point exactly.  And so I was hoping that perhaps you’d be able to restrain Dr. Gordon a little.

FULLER:  Sir, no one can restrain Dr. Gordon.

DICK:  I suppose not.  And so you’re gong to hold the meeting?

FULLER:  Of course, we are…for true believers in the Cause.

DICK:  Well, I may not be eligible as a true believer, but I’ll probably come as a newspaper reporter.  [Music.  Fades in and out.]


GORDON:  …and so I denounce not only the vile institution of slavery itself.  I denounce even more strongly those who fastened it upon our country and those who seek to perpetuate it.  And who are they?  First and foremost, they are the peoples…all the peoples…of the Southern states.  These fiends in human form, these torturers, these murderers, wax rich from the enforced labor of pitiable blacks whose wracked bodies stagger under the lash of the overseer.  They buy and sell human beings as we buy and sell the cattle of the fields.  And in their black-hearted pride they maintain their divine right to do all these things.  Yet, vile and vicious as are these vainglorious slavemasters, they are no whit worse than those who, living upon free soil, support them in their wickedness.  You know them, for they live here among you, polluting the very air of freedom which you breathe.  [Murmuring begins off.]  Here in your own city are those inhuman monsters whose selfishness, greed and lust for power impel them to endorse the curse of slavery.  [Murmuring up to angry crowd sound.]  I hear their voices even in this temple dedicated to Freedom.  They are traitors, and they deserve to meet the fate of traitors upon the gallows…

VOICES:  Get out!…Throw him out!…Lynch him!…Kill him!

GORDON:  I hear you, and I defy you!  You shall not obstruct the cause of Freedom!  You shall… [Pandemonium.  Shouts.  Women’s screams. Crash of glass and wood…holds for long moment and fades out.]  (PAUSE.)  [Door opens.]



MARY:  Why, Dick, what’s the matter?  Your face is covered with blood!

DICK:  I’m all right.  But I’m glad I wouldn’t let you go to the meeting.

MARY:  What happened?

DICK:  A riot.  Gordon was even worse than I thought he’d be. It was bad enough while he was giving it to the Southern slave-owners.  But then he started in on their Northern sympathizers…began to denounce those who live in Dayton.  After that, it was hard to tell just what was happening.  They threw rotten eggs first.  Then a fight started at the rear of the meeting house and spread forward. They smashed the benches, the window, and event the pulpit.  About a dozen women fainted and were trampled on.  A lot of men got hurt badly; they think one or two of them may die.

MARY:  And what happened to Dr. Gordon and Reverend Fuller?

DICK:  Nothing at all.  They slipped out the back way as soon as the riot started.  (PAUSE.)  I could do with some arnica, if you have any.

MARY:  You poor dear!  I’ll get it right away!  [Music: Fades in and out.]



COMLY:  It’s been more than a year, Dick, since the Gordon riot, yet the factional feeling in Dayton is getting worse instead of better.

DICK:  I know, Will.  It’s more than political conflict.  It’s a religious war now.  I’ve seen brawls at political meetings, but this is different.  And the kind of fury that leads to killing.  Nearly every abolition speaker who appears here is abused, moved or driven out of town.

COMLY:  That’s what I’m worried about now.  Our Republican committee is bringing a speaker here next week, and I know he’ll speak on the slavery issue.

DICK:  Who is he?

COMLY:  Mr. Lincoln, of Illinois.

DICK:  Oh, yes.  I’ve read most of his speeches in his debate with Stephen Douglas.  He’s not a rabble-rouse, like Gordon and the rest.  He ought to be safe here.

COMLY:  I hope so.   We’ve arranged to have him speak on a stand in front of the courthouse.  There’s a welcoming committee consisting of Sam Craighead, Lew Gunckel, and some others.  You and I are on it, too.

DICK:  All right.

COMLY:  You know, some people think Mr. Lincoln will be nominated for the presidency next year, and that he’ll win.

DICK:  Over Douglas?  I doubt that.  Lincoln appeals to reason, and Douglas appeals to the mob.  Still, I’d like to hear your Mr. Lincoln speak.  [Music: Fades in and out.]



  [Mixed greetings.  Good morning, Will…Lew, Sam…Dick, etc.]

CRAIGHEAD:  I think we’re all here now.  We’ll go up to Mr. Lincoln’s room.  (PAUSE.)  [Knock on door.]

LINCOLN:  [Off.]  Come in.  [Door opens.]

CRAIGHEAD:  Good morning, Mr. Lincoln.  I’m Samuel Craighead.

LINCOLN:  Good morning, sir.  I’m happy to meet you.

CRAIGHEAD:  And this is our committee of welcome.  Mr. Gunckel, Mr. Comly, Mr. Landis, Mr. Welsh and Mr. Stout.  Oh, yes, and Mr. Nickum.

LINCOLN:  [Chuckles.]  Are you a political after-thought, Mr. Nickum?

NICKUM:  [Embarrassed.]  No, sir, I’m an…an artist.

LINCOLN:  An artist?  I’m afraid you’re in bad company, sir, the rest of us are politicians.  [Laughter.]

COMLY:  [Hurriedly.]  You see, Mr. Lincoln, we thought you might be willing to pose for a portrait.

LINCOLN:  Mr. Nickum might paint a good portrait of me, but never a pretty one.

NICKUM:  [Earnestly.]  You have a very strong face, sir…very strong.  I’ll consider it an honor if you’ll sit for me.


NICKUM:  [Eagerly.]  Here, sir, in this chair by the window, where the light is good.  (PAUSE)  That’s it.  And please go ahead with your conversation, gentlemen.  It won’t disturb me.

CRAIGHEAD:  We’re expecting a big crowd to hear you, Mr. Lincoln.  Now, as to the arrangements for seating some of our leading citizens on the platform, we thought the best plan would be…[Music: fades in and out.]



LINCOLN:  Then we need not appeal to history, to the declaration of the framers of the government, but we know from Judge Douglas himself that slavery began to be an element of discord among the white people of this country as far back as 1699, or one hundred and sixty years ago, or five generations of men, counting thirty years to a generation.  Now, it seems to me that it might have occurred to Judge Douglas, or to anybody who had turned his attention to these facts, that there was something in the nature of that thing, slavery, somewhat durable for mischief and discord.  If Judge Douglas had looked at this fact, that slavery has been an element of discord for one hundred and sixty years among our people, he might have a more just appreciation of what I said fifteen months ago…that a house divided against itself cannot stand, that this government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free.  I do not expect the Union to be dissolved.  I do not expect the house to fall.  But I do expect it will cease to be divided.  It will become all one thing or all the other.  Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind will rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward, until it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new, North as well as South.  [Lincoln’s voice murmurs on behind…]

VOICE 1:  Who did you say this was, Hank?

VOICE 2:  Name’s Lincoln, I think.

VOICE 1:  Never heard of him.

VOICE 2:  Neither did I before today.

VOICE 1:  Ain’t much of a speaker.  I like fire and brimstone in any speech about slavery. Let’s get out of this crowd, and go down to the hotel.

VOICE 2:  No, wait.  He ain’t very fiery, I’ll admit, but there’s something about the way he talks that sort of gets you.

LINCOLN:  [Fading in.]  I am told, too, that here in Dayton, your own city, there has been bitterness, strife and contention, friend set against friend, and neighbor against neighbor…that there has been rioting and bloodshed.  And I am further informed that here, as elsewhere throughout our land, these evils are increasing rather that diminishing.  I wish I could give you as my parting thought the hope and assurance that such ills will heal themselves. That time alone will solve the problem of slavery and bring peace among the States.  But I know that it is not true.  Only by the wisdom of the national policy we adopt, and by the courage with which we pursue that policy, can we assure peace for ourselves and our children.  And if we cannot summon that wisdom and that courage…then, as surely as tomorrow’s sun shall rise, this great nation shall come at last to Armageddon.  [Loud cheers, fading but holding behind…]

MARY:  Oh, Dick, I’ve never heard anyone like him!

DICK:  Neither have I.  Such simplicity, and yet such power.  Will Comly says that he’ll be the next President of the United States.  I believe that now.

MARY:  But did he mean the last thing he said…about our coming to Armageddon.

DICK:  Yes, dear, he meant it…that we may come at last to all the horrors and destruction of civil war.  (PAUSE.)  [Far off…Thunder of cannon, rattle of musketry, bugle calls.  HOLD this.]


  [Music:  In very softly and behind…]

ANNOUNCER:  Ladies and gentlemen.  You have been listening to “Half Slave, Half Free,” a drama of the “Great Days in Dayton” series, presented by The Dayton Power and Light Company.  Next Sunday, at this same hour, we shall present “Armageddon,” the story of Dayton’s participation in the Civil War.  [Music: Swells to fortissimo finale.]


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