nent which we could acquire, if we except some extreme northern
regions which are wholly out of the question.
In this state of affairs the Genius of Discord himself could scarcely
have invented a way of again setting us by the ears but by turning
back and destroying the peace measures of the past.
of that Genius seem to have prevailed. The Missouri Compromise
was repealed ; and here we are in the midst of a new slavery agita-
tion, such, I think, as we have never seen before. Who is respon-
sible for this? Is it those who resist the measure, or those who
causelessly brought it forward and pressed it through, having rea-
son to know, and in fact knowing, it must and would be so resisted ?
It could not but be expected by its author that it would be looked
upon as a measure for the extension of slavery, aggravated by a
gross breach of faith.
Argue as you will and long as you will, this is the naked front
and aspect of the measure. And in this aspect it could not but
produce agitation. Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's
nature — opposition to it in his love of justice. These principles
are an eternal antagonism, and when brought into collision so
fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks and throes and
convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Com-
promise, repeal all compromises, repeal the Declaration of Inde-
pendence, repeal all past history, you still cannot repeal human
nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart that slavery
extension is wrong, and out of the abundance of his heart his mouth
will continue to speak.
200 ADDRESSES AND LETTEBfl <'l ABRAHAM LINCOLN
The structure, too, of the Nebraska bill is very peculiar. The
people are to decide the question of slavery for themselves; but
when they are to decide, or how they are to decide, or whether,
when the question is once decided, it is to remain bo or i- 1" be sub-
ject to an indefinite succession of new trials, the law does not say.
Is it to be decided by the first dozen settlers who arrive there, or II
it to await the arrival of a hundred? Is it to be decided by a vote
of the people or a vote of the legislatui'e, or, indeed, by a vote of
any sort ? To these questions the law gives no answer. There is a
mystery about this; for when a member proposed to give the Legis-
lature express authority to exclude slavery, it was hooted down by
the friends of the bill. This fact is worth remembering. Some
Yankees in the East are sending emigrants to Nebraska to exclude
slavery from it; and, so far as I can judge, they expect the question
to be decided by voting in some way or other. But the Missouriaua
are awake, too. They are within a stone's-throw of the contested
ground. They hold meetings and pass resolutions, in which not the
slightest allusion to voting is made. They resolve that slavery
already exists in the Territory; that more shall go there ; that they,
remaining in Missouri, will protect it, and that Abolitionists shall
be hung or driven away. Through all this bowie-knives and six-
shooters are seen plainly enough, but never a glimpse of the ballot-
And, really, what is the result of all this? Each party within
having numerous and determined backers without, is it not probable
that the contest will come to blows and bloodshed? Could there be
a more apt invention to bring about collision and violence on the
slavery question than this Nebraska project is? I do not charge or
believe that such was intended by Congress ; but if they had literally
formed a ring and placed champions within it to fight out the con-
troversy, the fight could be no more likely to come off than it is.
And if this fight should begin, is it likely to take a very peaceful,
Union-saving turn ? Will not the first drop of blood so shed be the
real knell of the Union ?
The Missouri Compromise ought to be restored. For the sake of
the Union, it ought to be restored. We ought to elect a House of
Representatives which will vote its restoration. If by any means
we omit to do this, what follows? Slavery may or may not be
established in Nebraska. But whether it be or not. we shall have re-
pudiated — discarded from the councils of the nation — the spirit of
compromise; for who, after this, will ever trust in a national com-
promise? The spirit of mutual concession — that spirit which first
gave us the Constitution, and which has thrice saved the Union — we
shall have strangled and cast from us forever. And what shall we
have in lieu of it? The South flushed with triumph and tempted to
excess; the North, betrayed as they believe, brooding on wrong and
burning for revenge. One side will provoke, the other resent. The
one will taunt, the other defy; one aggresses, the other retaliates.
Already a few in the North* defy alb constitutional restraints, re-
sist the execution of the fugitive-slave law, and even menace the
institution of slavery in the States where it exists. Already a few
ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 201
in the South claim the constitutional right to take and to hold
slaves in the free States — demand the revival of the slave-trade —
and demand a treaty with Great Britain by which fugitive slaves
may be reclaimed from Canada. As yet they are but few on either
side. It is a grave question for lovers of the Union, whether the
final destruction of the Missouri Compromise, and with it the spirit
of all compromise, will or will not embolden and embitter each of
these, and fatally increase the number of both.
But restore the compromise, and what then ? We thereby restore
the national faith, the national confidence, the national feeling of
brotherhood. We thereby reinstate the spirit of concession and
compromise, that spirit which has never failed us in past perils, and
which may be safely trusted for all the future. The South ought
to join in doing this. The peace of the nation is as dear to them
as to us. In memories of the past and hopes of the future, they
share as largely as we. It would be on their part a great act — great
in its spirit, and great in its effect. It would be worth to the nation
a hundred years' purchase of peace and prosperity. And what of
sacrifice would they make ? They only surrender to us what they
gave us for a consideration long, long ago; what they have not
now asked for, struggled or cared for ; what has been thrust upon
them, not less to their astonishment than to ours.
But it is said we cannot restore it; that though we elect every
member of the lower House, the Senate is still against us. It is
quite true that of the senators who passed the Nebraska bill, a
majority of the whole Senate will retain their seats in spite of the
elections of this and the next year. But if at these elections their
several constituencies shall clearly express their will against Ne-
braska, will these senators disregard their will "? Will they neither
obey nor make room for those who will 1
But even if we fail to technically restore the compromise, it is
still a great point to carry a popular vote in favor of the restora-
tion. The moral weight of such a vote cannot be estimated too
highly. The authors of Nebraska are not at all satisfied with the
destruction of the compromise — an indorsement of this principle
they proclaim to be the great object. With them, Nebraska alone
is a small matter^ to establish a principle for future use is what
they particularly desire.
The future use is to be the planting of slavery wherever in the
wide world local and unorganized opposition cannot prevent it.
Now, if you wish to give them this indorsement, if you wish to es-
tablish this principle, do so. I shall regret it, but it is your right.
On the contrary, if you are opposed to the principle, — intend to give
it no such indorsement, — let no wheedling, no sophistry, divert you
from throwing a direct vote against it.
Some men, mostly Whigs, who condemn the repeal of the Mis-
souri Compromise, nevertheless hesitate to go for its restoration,
lest they be thrown in company with the Abolitionists. Will they
allow me, as an old Whig, to tell them, good-humoredly, that I think
this is very silly? Stand with anybody that stands right. Stand
with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.
202 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Staud with the Abolitionist in restoring the Missouri Compromise,
and stand against him when he attempts to repeal the fugitive-slave
law. In the latter ease yon stand with the Southern disunionist.
What of thai .' you are still right. In both cases vou are right. In
both cases yon expose the dangerous extremes. In both you stand
on middle ground, and hold the ship level and steady. In both you
are national, and nothing less than national. This is the good old
Whig ground. To desert such ground because of any company, is
to be less than a Whig — less than a man — less than an American.
I particularly object to the new position which the avowed prin-
ciple of this Nebraska law gives to slavery in the body politic. I
object to it because it assumes that there car be moral right in the
enslaving of one man by another. I object to it as a dangerous
dalliance for a free people — a sad evidence that, feeling prosperity,
we forget right; that liberty, as a principle, we have ceased to re-
vere. I object to it because the fathers of the republic eschewed
and rejected it. The argument of ''necessity" was the only argu-
ment they ever admitted in favor of slavery: and so far. and so far
only, as it earned them did they ever go. They found the institu-
tion existing among us, which they could not help, and they cast
blame upon the British king for having permitted its introduction.
Before the Constitution they prohibited its introduction into the
Northwestern Territory, the only country we owned then free from
it. At the framing and adoption of the Constitution, the}* forbore
to so much as mention the word "slave " or " slavery " in the whole
instrument. In the provision for the recovery of fugitives, t ln-
slave is spoken of as a "person held to service or labor.*' In that
prohibiting the abolition of the African slave-trade for twenty
years, that trade is spoken of as "the migration or importation of
such persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to
admit," etc. These are the only provisions alluding to slavery.
Thus the thing is hid away in the Constitution, just as an afflicted
man hides away a wen or cancer which he dares not cut out at
once, lest he bleed to death, — with the promise, nevertheless, that
the cutting may begin at a certain time. Less than this our fathers
could not do, and more they would not do. Necessity drove them
so far, and further they would not go. But this is not all. The
earliest Congress under the Constitution took the same view of
slavery. They hedged and hemmed it in to the narrowest limits of
In 1794 they prohibited an outgoing slave-trade — that is, the
taking of slaves from the United States to sell. In 1798 they prohibi-
ted the bringing of slaves from Africa into the Mississippi Territory,
this Territory then comprising what are now the States or Mississippi
and Alabama. This was ten years before they had the authority to
do the same thing as to the States existing at the adoption of the Con-
stitution. In 1800 they prohibited American citizens from trading
in slaves between foreign countries, as, for instance, from Africa to
Brazil. In 1803 they passed a law in aid of one or two slave-Stale
laws, in restraint of the internal slave-trade. In 1S07, in apparent
hot haste, they passed the law. nearly a year in advance, — to take
ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN 203
effect the first day of 1808, the very first day the Constitution would
permit, — prohibiting the African slave-trade by heavy pecuniary
and corporal penalties. In 1820, finding these provisions ineffectual,
they declared the slave-trade piracy, and annexed to it the extreme
penalty of death. While all this was passing in the General Govern-
ment, five or six of the original slave States had adopted systems
of gradual emancipation, by which the institution was rapidly becom-
ing extinct within their limits. Thus we see that the plain, unmis-
takable spirit of that age toward slavery was hostility to the prin-
ciple and toleration only by necessity.
But now it is to be transformed into a " sacred right." Nebraska
brings it forth, places it on the highroad to extension and perpe-
tuity, and with a pat on its back says to it, " Go, and God speed you."
Henceforth it is to be the chief jewel of the nation — the very figure-
head of the ship of state. Little by little, but steadily as man's
march to the grave, we have been giving up the old for the new faith.
Near eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are cre-
ated equal ; but now from that beginning we have run down to the
other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a " sacred
right of self-government." These principles cannot stand together.
They are as opposite as God and Mammon ; and who ever holds to the
one must despise the other. When Pettit, in connection with his
support of the Nebraska bill, called the Declaration of Independence
" a self-evident lie," he only did what consistency and candor require
all other Nebraska men to do. Of the forty-odd Nebraska senators
who sat present and heard him, no one rebuked him. Nor am I
apprised that any Nebraska newspaper, or any Nebraska orator, in the
whole nation has ever yet rebuked him. If this had been said among
Marion's men, Southerners though they were, what would have be-
come of the man who said it? If this had been said to the men who
captured Andre, the man who said it would probably have been hung
sooner than Andre was. If it had been said in old Independence Hall
seventy-eight years ago, the very doorkeeper would have throttled
the man and thrust him into the street. Let no one be deceived.
The spirit of seventy-six and the spirit of Nebraska are utter antag-
onisms; and the former is being rapidly displaced by the latter.
Fellow-countrymen, Americans, South as well as North, shall we
make no effort to arrest this? Already the liberal party throughout
the world express the apprehension " that the one retrograde insti-
tution in America is undermining the principles of progress, and
fatally violating the noblest political system the world ever saw."
This is not the taunt of enemies, but the warning of friends. Is it
quite safe to disregard it — to despise it? Is there no danger to lib-
erty itself in discarding the earliest practice and first precept of our
ancient faith? In our greedy chase to make profit of the negro, let
us beware lest we " cancel and tear in pieces" even the white man's
charter of freedom.
Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us re-
purify it. Let us turn and wash it white in the spirit, if not the blood,
of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of " moral
right" back upon its existing legal rights and its arguments of "ne-
204 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
QeBshy." Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it, and
there let it pest in peace. Let us readopt the Declaration of Inde-
pendence, and with it the practices and policy which harmonize with it.
Let North and South — let all Americans — let all lovers of liberty
everywhere join in the great and good work. If we do this, we
shall not only have saved the Union, but we shall have so saved it as
to make and to keep it forever worthy of the saving. We shall have
so saved it that the succeeding millions of free happy people, the
world over, shall rise up and call us blessed to the latest generations.
At Springfield, twelve days ago, where I had spoken substantially
as I have here, Judge Douglas replied to me; and as he is to reply to
me here, I shall attempt to anticipate him by noticing some of the
points he made there. He commenced by stating I had assumed all
the way through that the principle of the Nebraska bill would have
the effect of extending slavery. He denied that this was intended, or
that this effect would follow.
I will not reopen the argument upon this point. That such was
the intention the world believed at the start, and will continue to
believe. This was the countenance of the thing, and both friends and
enemies instantly recognized it as such. That countenance cannot
now be changed by argument. You can as easily argue the color
out of the negro's skin. Like the "bloody hand," you may wash it
and wash it, the red witness of guilt still sticks and stares horribly
Next he sa} r s that congressional intervention never prevented
slavery anywhere; that it did not prevent it in the Northwestern
Territory, nor in Illinois; that, in fact, Illinois came into the Union
as a slave State; that the principle of the Nebraska bill expelled it
from Illiuois, from several old States, from everywhere.
Now this is mere quibbling all the way through. If the ordinance
of '87 did not keep slavery out of the Northwest Territory, how
happens it that the northwest shore of the Ohio River is entirely
free from it, while the southeast shore, less than a mile distant.
along nearly the whole length of the river, is entirely covered with it T
If that ordinance did not keep it out of Illinois, what was it that
made the difference between Illinois and Missouri? They lie side
by side, the Mississippi River only dividing them while their early
settlements were within the same latitude. Between ]NlO and 1820,
the number of slaves in Missouri increased 7211, while in Illinois
in the same ten years they decreased 51. This appears by the census
returns. During nearly' all of that ten years both were Territories,
not States. During this time the ordinance forbade slavery to go
into Illinois, and nothing forbade it to go into Missouri. It did L'o
into Missouri, and did not go into Illinois. That is the fact. Can
any one doubt as to the reason of it? But he says Illinois came
into the Union as a slave State. Silence, perhaps, would be the best
answer to this flat contradiction of the known history of the country.
What are the facts upon which this bold assertion is based? When we
tirst acquired the country, as far back as 1787, there were some slaves
within it held by the French inhabitants of Kaskaskia. The terri-
torial legislation admitted a few negroes from the slave States as
ADDBESSES AND LETTEES OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 205
indentured servants. One year after the adoption of the first State
constitution, the whole number of them was — what do you think?
Just one hundred and seventeen, while the aggregate free popula-
tion was 55,094, — about four hundred and seventy to one. Upon
this state of facts the people framed their constitution prohibiting
the further introduction of slavery, with a sort of guarantee to the
owners of the few indentured servants, giving freedom to their chil-
dren to be born thereafter, and making no mention whatever of any
supposed slave for life. Out of this small matter the judge manu-
factures his argument that Illinois came into the Union as a slave
State. Let the facts be the answer to the argument.
The principles of the Nebraska bill, he says, expelled slavery from
Illinois. The principle of that bill first planted it here — that is, it
first came because there was no law to prevent it, first came before
we owned the country ; and finding it here, and having the ordinance
of '87 to prevent its increasing, our people struggled along, and
finally got rid of it as best they could.
But the principle of the Nebraska bill abolished slavery in several
of the old States. Well, it is true that several of the old States, in
the last quarter of the last century, did adopt systems of gradual
emancipation by which the institution has finally become extinct
within their limits ; but it may or may not be true that the principle
of the Nebraska bill was the cause that led to the adoption of these
measures. It is now more than fifty years since the last of these
States adopted its system of emancipation.
If the Nebraska bill is the real author of the benevolent works, it
is rather deplorable that it has for so long a time ceased working al-
together. Is there not some reason to suspect that it was the prin-
ciple of the Revolution, and not the principle of the Nebraska bill,
that led to emancipation in these old States ? Leave it to the people
of these old emancipating States, and I am quite certain they will
decide that neither that nor any other good thing ever did or ever
will come of the Nebraska bill.
In the course of my main argument, Judge Douglas interrupted
me to say that the principle of the Nebraska bill was very old ; that
it originated when God made man, and placed good and evil before
him, allowing him to choose for himself, being responsible for the
choice he should make. At the time I thought this was merely play-
ful, and I answered it accordingly. But in his reply to me he renewed
it as a serious argument. In seriousness, then, the facts of this prop-
osition are not true as stated. God did not place good and evil
before man, telling him to make his choice. On the contrary, he did
tell him there was one tree of the fruit of which he should not eat,
upon pain of certain death. I should scarcely wish so strong a pro-
hibition against slavery in Nebraska.
But this argument strikes me as not a little remarkable in another
particular — in its strong resemblance to the old argument for the
"divine right of kings." By the latter, the king is to do just as he
pleases with his white subjects, being responsible to God alone. By
the former, the white man is to do just as he pleases with his black
slaves, being responsible to God alone. The two things are pre-
206 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
eisely alike, and it is but natural that they should find similar argu-
ments to sustain them.
I had argued that the application of the principle of self-govern-
ment, as contended for, would require the revival of the African
slave-trade: that no argument could be made in favor of a man's
right to take slaves to Nebraska, which could not be equally well
made in favor of his right to bring them from the coast of Africa.
The judge replied that the Constitution requires the suppression
of the foreign slave-trade, but does not require the prohibition of
slavery in the Territories. That is a mistake in point of fact. The
Constitution does not require the action of Congress in either e
and it does authorize it in both. And so there is still no difference
between the cases.
In regard to what I have said of the" advantage the slave States
have over the free in the matter of representation, the judge re-
plied that we in the free States count five free negroes as five white
people, while in the slave States they count five slaves as three
whites only ; and that the advantage, at last, was on the side of
the free States.
Now, in the slave States they count free negroes just as we do;
and it so happens that, besides their slaves, they have as many free
negroes as we have, and thirty thousand over. Thus, their free ne-
groes more than balance ours ; and their advantage over us, in con-
sequence of their slaves, still remains as I stated it.
In reply to my argument that the compromise measures of 1850
were a system of equivalents, and that the provisions of no one of
them could fairly be carried to other subjects without its corre-
sponding equivalent being carried with it, the judge denied outright
that these measures had any connection with or dependence upon
each other. This is mere desperation. If they had no connection,
why are they always spoken of in connection? "Why has he so
spoken of them a thousand times? Why has he constantly called
them a series of measures.' Why does everybody call them a com-
promise? Why was California kept out of the Union six or seven
months, if it was not because of its connection with the other
measures? Webster's leading definition of the verb "to compro-
mise" is "to adjust and settle a difference, by mutual agreement,
with concessions of claims by the parties." This conveys precisely
the popular understanding of the word " compromise.''
We knew, before the judge told us, that these measures passed
separately, and in distinct bills, and that no two of them were
passed by the votes of precisely the same members. But we also
know, and so does he know, that no one of them could have passed
both branches of Congress but for the understanding that the others