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this work, is at least a caged and toothless one. How
can he oppose the advances of slavery? He don't care
anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing
the "public heart" to care nothing about it. A leading
Douglas Democratic newspaper thinks Douglas's supe-
rior talent will be needed to resist the revival of the
African slave trade. Does Douglas believe an effort to
revive that trade is approaching? He has not said so.
Does he really think so? But if it is, how can he resist
it? For years he has labored to prove it a sacred right
of white men to take negro slaves into the new ter-
ritories. Can he possibly show that it is a less sacred
right to buy them where they can be bought cheapest ?



232 Appendix

And unquestionably they can be bought cheaper in
Africa than in Virginia. He has done all in his power
to reduce the whole question of slavery to one of a
mere right of property ; and, as such, how can he op-
pose the foreign slave trade? How can he refuse
that trade in that "property" shall be "perfectly free,"
unless he does it as a protection to home production?
And as the home producers will probably not ask the
protection, he will be wholly without a ground of
opposition.

Senator Douglas holds, we know, that a man may
rightfully be wiser to-day than he was yesterday — that
he may rightfully change when he finds himself wrong.
But can we, for that reason, run ahead, and infer that
he will make any particular change, of which he him-
self has given no intimation? Can we safely base our
action upon any such vague inference?

Now, as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge
Douglas's position, question his motives, or do aught
that can be personally offensive to him. Whenever, if
ever, he and we can come together on principle, so that
our great cause may have assistance from his great
ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious ob-
stacle. But, clearly, he is not now with us — he does
not pretend to be — he does not promise ever to be. ■

Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted
by, its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are
free, whose hearts are in the work, who do care for
the result. Two years ago the Republicans of the
nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand
strong. We did this under the single impulse of re-
sistance to a common danger, with every external cir-
cumstance against us. Of strange, discordant, and
even hostile elements, we gathered from the four
winds, and formed and fought the battle through,
under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud,
and pampered enemy. Did we brave all then to falter
now ? — now, when that same enemy is wavering, dis-
severed, and belligerent? The result is not doubtful.



Addresses and State Papers 233

We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.
Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it,
but sooner or later the victory is sure to come.



Cooper Institute Address. February 2'], i860

Greeley, whose sympathies had been with the aspirations
of Douglas in the great debate, wrote thus of Lincohi's re-
ception in New York on the occasion of this address : "No
man has been welcomed by such an audience of the intel-
lect and mental culture of our city, since the days of Clay
and Webster." Arnold, in his life of Lincoln, gives this
estimate of the address : "There is compressed into it such
an amount of historical learning, stated in the simplest lan-
guage, as within such a scope, is perhaps unparalleled."

Mr. President and Fellow Citizens of New
York : The facts with which I shall deal this evening
are mainly old and familiar ; nor is there anything new
in the general use I shall make of them. If there shall
be any novelty, it will be in the mode of presenting the
facts, and the inferences and observations following
that presentation. In his speech last auttmm at Colum-
bus, Ohio, as reported in the Nciv York Times, Sen-
ator Douglas said :

Our fathers, when they framed the government under which
we live, understood this question just as well, and even bet-
ter, than we do now.

I fully indorse this, and I adopt it as a text for this
discourse. I so adopt it because it furnishes a precise
and an agreed starting point for a discussion between
Republicans and that wing of the Democracy headed
by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves the inquiry :
What was the understanding those fathers had of the
question mentioned?

What is the frame of government vmder which we
live? The answer must be, "The Constitution of the
United States." That Constitution consists of the
original, framed in 1787, and under which the present
government first went into operation, and twelve sub-



234 Appendix

sequently framed amendments, the first ten of which
were framed in 1789.

Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution?
I suppose the "thirty-nine" who signed the original
instrument may be fairly called our fathers who framed
that part of the present government. It is almost ex-
actly true to say they framed it, and it is altogether
true to say they fairly represented the opinion and
sentiment of the whole nation at that time. Their
names, being familiar to nearly all, and accessible to
quite all, need not now be repeated.

I take these "thirty-nine," for the present, as being
"our fathers who framed the government under which
we live." What is the question which, according to
the text, those fathers understood "just as well, and
even better, than we do now ?"

It is this : Does the proper division of local from
federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, for-
bid our federal government to control as to slavery in
our federal territories ?

Upon this. Senator Douglas holds the affirmative,
and Republicans the negative. This affirmation and
denial form an issue ; and this issue — this question — is
precisely what the text declares our fathers understood
"better than we." Let us now inquire whether the
"thirty-nine," or any of them, ever acted upon this
question ; and if they did, how they acted upon it— how
they expressed that better understanding. In 1784,
three years before the Constitution, the United States
then owning the Northwestern Territory, and no other,
the Congress of the Confederation had before them
the question of prohibiting slavery in that territory ;
and four of the "thirty-nine" who afterward framed
the Constitution were in that Congress and voted on
that question. Of these, Roger Sherman, Thomas
Mifflin, and Hugh Williamson voted for the prohibi-
tion, thus showing that, in their understanding, no line
dividing local from federal authority, nor anything
else, properly forbade the federal government to con-



Addresses and State Papers 235

trol as to slavery in federal territory. The other of the
four, James McHenry, voted asj^ainst the prohibition,
showing that for some cause he thought it improper to
vote for it.

In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the
convention was in session framing it, and while the
Northwestern Territory still was the only territory
owned by the United States, the same question of pro-
hibiting slavery in the territory again came before the
Congress of the Confederation ; and two more of the
"thirty-nine" who afterward signed the Constitution
were in that Congress, and voted on the question. They
were William Blount and William Few ; and they both
voted for the prohibition — thus showing that in their
understanding no line dividing local from federal au-
thority, nor anything else, properly forbade the federal
government to control as to slavery in federal territory.
This time the prohibition became a law, being part of
what is now well known as the ordinance of '87.

The question of federal control of slavery in the
territories seems not to have been directly before the
convention which framed the original Constitution ;
and hence it is not recorded that the "thirty-nine," or
any of them, while engaged on that instrument, ex-
pressed any opinion on that precise question.

In 1789, by the first Congress which sat under the
Constitution, an act was passed to enforce the ordi-
nance of '^y, including the prohibition of slavery in
the Northwestern Territory. The bill for this act was
reported by one of the "thirty-nine" — Thomas Fitz-
simmons, then a member of the House of Representa-
tives from Pennsylvania. It went through all its stages
without a word of opposition, and finally passed both
branches without ayes and nays, which is equivalent
to a unanimous passage. In this Congress there were
sixteen of the thirty-nine fathers who framed the orig-
inal Constitution. They were John Langdon, Nicholas
Oilman, Wm. S. Johnson, Roger Sherman, Robert
Morris, Thos. Fitzsimmons, William Few, Abraham



236 Appendix

Baldwin, Rufus King, William Paterson, George Cly-
mer, Richard Bassett, George Read, Pierce Butler,
Daniel Carroll, and James Madison.

This shows that, in their understanding, no line di-
viding local from federal authority, nor anything m
the Constitution, properly forbade Congress to prohibit
slavery in the federal territory ; else both their fidelity
to correct principle, and their oath to support the Con-
stitiition, would have constrained them to oppose the
prohibition.

Again, George Washington, another of the "thirty-
nine," was then President of the United States and as
such approved and signed the bill, thus completing its
validity as a law, and thus showing that, in his under-
standing, no line dividing local from federal authority,
nor anything in the Constitution, forbade the federal
government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

No great while after the adoption of the original
Constitution, North Carolina ceded to the federal gov-
ernment the country now constituting the state of Ten-
nessee ; and a few years later Georgia ceded that which
now constitutes the states of Mississippi and Alabama.
In both deeds of cession it was made a condition by
the ceding states that the federal government should
not prohibit slavery in the ceded country. Besides this,
slavery was then actually in the ceded country. Under
these circumstances. Congress, on taking charge of
these countries, did not absolutely prohibit slavery
within them. But they did interfere with it — take con-
trol of it — even there, to a certain extent. In 1798
Congress organized the territory of Mississippi. In
the act of organization they prohibited the bringing of
slaves into the territory from any place without the
United States, by fine, and giving freedom to slaves so
bought. This act passed both branches of Congress
without yeas and nays. In that Congress were three
of the "thirty-nine" who framed the original Consti-
tution. They were John Langdon, George Read, and
Abraham Baldwin. They all probably voted for it.



Addresses and State Papers 237

Certainly they would have placed their opposition to it
upon record if, in their understanding, any line divid-
ing local from federal authority, or anything in the
Constitution, properly forbade the federal government
to control as to slavery in federal territory.

In 1803 the federal government i)urchased the Loui-
siana country. Our former territorial acquisitions
came from certain of our own states ; but this Louisi-
ana country was acquired from a foreign nation. In
1804 Congress gave a territorial organization to that
part of it which now constitutes the state of Louisiana.
New Orleans, lying within that part, was an old and
comparatively large city. There were other consider-
able towns and settlements, and slavery was extensively
and thoroughly intermingled with the people. Congress
did not, in the Territorial Act, prohibit slavery ; but
they did interfere with it — take control of it — in a
more marked and extensive way than they did in the
case of Mississippi. The substance of the provision
therein made in relation to slaves was :

1st. That no slave should be imported into the ter-
ritory from foreign parts.

2d. That no slave should be carried into it who had
been imported into the United States since the first
day of May, 1798.

3d. That no slave should be carried into it, except
by the owner, and for his own use as a settler ; the
penalty in all the cases being a fine upon the violator
of the law, and freedom to the slave.

This act also was passed without ayes or nays. In
the Congress which passed it there were two of the
"thirty-nine." They were Abraham Baldwin and Jona-
than Dayton. As stated in the case of Mississippi, it
is probable they both voted for it. They would not
have allowed it to pass without recording their opposi-
tion to it if, in their understanding, it violated either
the line properly dividing local from federal authority,
or any provision of the Constitution.

In 1819-1820 came and passed the Missouri question.



238 Appendix

Many votes were taken, by yeas and nays, in both
branches of Congress, upon the various phases of the
general question. Two of the "thirty-nine" — Rufus
King and Charles Pinckney — were members of that
Congress. Mr. King steadily voted for slavery prohi-
bition and against all compromises, while Mr. Pinckney
as steadily voted against slavery prohibition and against
all compromises. By this, Mr. King showed that, in
his understanding, no line dividing local from federal
authority, nor anything in the Constitution, was vio-
lated by Congress prohibiting slavery in federal terri-
tory ; while Mr. Pinckney, by his votes, showed that,
in his understanding there was some sufficient reason
for opposing such prohibition in that case.

The cases I have mentioned are the only acts of the
"thirty-nine," or of any of them, upon the direct issue,
which I have been able to discover.

To enumerate the persons who thus acted as being
four in 1784, two in 1787, seventeen in 1789, three in
1798, two in 1804, and two in 1819-1820, there would
be thirty of them. But this would be counting John
Langdon, Roger Sherman, William Few, Rufus King,
and George Read each twice, and Abraham Baldwin
three times. The true number of those of the "thirty-
nine" whom I have shown to have acted upon the
question which, by the text, they understood better
than we, is twenty-three, leaving sixteen not shown
to have acted upon it in any way.

Here, then, we have twenty-three out of our thirty-
nine fathers "who framed the government under which
we live," who have, upon their official responsibility
and their corporal oaths, acted upon the very question
which the text affirms they "understood just as well,
and even better, than we do now" ; and twenty-one of
them — a clear majority of the whole "thirty-nine" —
so acting upon it as to make them guilty of gross polit-
ical impropriety and willful perjury if, in their under-
standing, any proper division between local and federal
authority, or anything in the Constitution they had



Addresses and State Papers 239

made themselves, and sworn to support, forbade the
federal government to control as to slavery in the
federal territories. Thus the twenty-one acted ; and,
as actions speak louder than words, so actions under
such res]~)onsibility speak still louder.

Two of the twenty-three voted against congressional
prohibition of slavery in the federal territories, in the
instances in which they acted upon the question. But
for what reasons they so voted is not known. They
may have done so because they thought a proper divi-
sion of local from federal authority, or some provision
or principle of the Constitution, stood in the way, or
they may. without any such question, have voted against
the prohibition on what appeared to them to be suffi-
cient grounds of expediency. No one who has sworn
to support the Constitution can conscientiously vote
for what he understands to be an unconstitutional
measure, however expedient he may think it ; but one
may and ought to vote against a measure which he
deems constitutional if, at the same time, he deems it
inexpedient. It, therefore, would be unsafe to set
down even the two who voted against the prohibition
as having done so because, in their understanding, any
proper division of local from federal authority, or any-
thing in the Constitution, forbade the federal govern-
ment to control as to slavery in federal territory. The
remaining sixteen of the "thirty-nine," so far as I have
discovered, have left no record of their vmderstanding
upon the direct question of federal control of slavery
in the federal territories. But there is much reason
to believe that their understanding upon that question
would not have appeared ditTerent from that of their
twenty-three compeers, had it been manifested at all.

For the purpose of adhering rigidly to the text, I
have purposely omitted whatever understanding may
have been manifested by any person, however distin-
guished, other than the thirty-nine fathers who framed
the original Constitution ; and, for the same reason, I
have also omitted whatever understanding may have



240 Appendix

been manifested by any of the "thirty-nine" even on
any other phase of the general question of slavery. If
we should look into their acts and declarations on those
other phases, as the foreign slave trade, and the moral-
ity and policy of slavery generally, it would appear to
us that on the direct question of federal control of
slavery in federal territories, the sixteen, if they had
acted at all, would probably have acted just as the
twenty-three did. Among that sixteen were several
of the most noted antislavery men of those times, — as
Dr. Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Gouverneur
Morris, — while there was not one now known to have
been otherwise, unless it may be John Rutledge, of
South Carolina.

The sum of the whole is that of our thirty-nine
fathers who framed the original Constitution, twenty-
one — a clear majority of the whole — certainly under-
stood that no proper division of local from federal
authority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade
the federal government to control slavery in the federal
territories ; while all the rest had probably the same
understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the under-
standing of our fathers who framed the original Con-
stitution ; and the text affirms that they understood the
question "better than we."

But, so far, I have been considering the understand-
ing of the question manifested by the framers of the
original Constitution. In and by the original instru-
ment, a mode was provided for amending it ; and, as I
have already stated, the present frame of "the govern-
ment under which we live" consists of that original,
and twelve amendatory articles framed and adopted
since. Those who now insist that federal control of
slavery in federal territories violates the Constitution,
point us to the provisions which they suppose it thus
violates ; and, as I understand, they all fix upon provi-
sions in these amendatory articles, and not in the origi-
nal instrument. The Supreme Court, in the Dred Scott
case, plant themselves upon the fifth amendment.



Addresses and State Papers 241

which provides that no person shall be deprived of
"life, liberty, or property without due process of law" ;
while Senator Douglas and his peculiar adherents plant
themselves upon the tenth amendment, providing that
"the powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution" "are reserved to the states respectively,
or to the people."

Now, it so happens that these amendments were
framed by the first Congress which sat under the Con-
stitution — the identical Congress which passed the act,
already mentioned, enforcing the prohibition of sla-
very in the Northwestern Territory. Not only was it
the same Congress, but they were the identical, same
individual men who, at the same session, and at the
same time within the session, had under consideration,
and in progress toward maturity, these constitutional
amendments, and this act prohibiting slavery in all the
territory the nation then owned. The constitutional
amendments were introduced before, and passed after,
the act enforcing the ordinance of '87 ; so that, during
the whole pendency of the act to enforce the ordi-
nance, the constitutional amendments were also
pending.

The seventy-six members of that Congress, including
sixteen of the framers of the original Constitution, as
before stated, were preeminently our fathers who
framed that part of "the government vmder which we
live" which is now claimed as forbidding the federal
government to control slavery in the federal territories.

Is it not a little presumptuous in any one at this day
to affirm that the two things which that Congress de-
liberately framed, and carried to maturity at the same
time, are absolutely inconsistent with each other ? And
does not such affirmation become impudently absurd
when coupled with the other affirmation, from the
same mouth, that those who did the two things alleged
to be inconsistent, understood whether they really were
inconsistent better than we — better than he who affirms
that they are inconsistent ?



242 Appendix

It is surely safe to assume that the thirty-nine
framers of the original Constitution, and the seventy-
six members of the Congress which framed the amend-
ments thereto, taken together, do certainly include
those who may be fairly called "our fathers who framed
the government under which we live." And so as-
suming, I defy any man to show that any one of them
ever, in his whole life, declared that, in his understand-
ing, any proper division of local from federal authority.
or any part of the Constitution, forbade the federal
government to control as to slavery in the federal ter-
ritories. I go a step further. I defy any one to show
that any living man in the whole world ever did, prior
to the beginning of the present century (and I might
almost say prior to the beginning of the last half of
the present century), declare that, in his understand-
ing, any proper division of local from federal authority.
or any part of the Constitution, forbade the federal
government to control as to slavery in the federal
territories. To those who now so declare I give
not only "our fathers who framed the government
under which w^e live," but with them all other liv-
ing men within the century in which it was framed,
among whom to search, and they shall not be able
to find the evidence of a single man agreeing with
them.

Now, and here, let me guard a little against being
misunderstood. I do not mean to say we are bound
to follow implicitly in whatever our fathers did. To
do so, would be to discard all the lights of current ex-
perience — to reject all progress, all improvement.
What I do say is, that if we would supplant the opin-
ions and policy of our fathers in any case, we should
do so upon evidence so conclusive, and argument so
clear, that even their great authority, fairly considered
and weighed, cannot stand ; and most surely not in a
case whereof we ourselves declare they understood
the question better than we.

If any man at this day sincerely believes that a



Addresses and State Papers 243

proper division of local from federal authority, or any
part of the Constitution, forbids the federal govern-
ment to control as to slavery in the federal territories,
he is right to say so, and to enforce his position by all
truthful evidence and fair argument which he can.
But he has no right to mislead others who have less
access to history, and less leisure to study it, into the
false belief that "our fathers who framed the govern-
ment under which we live" were of the same opinion
— thus substituting falsehood and deception for truth-
ful evidence and fair argument. If any man at this
day sincerely believes "our fathers who framed the
government u.nder which we live" used and applied
principles, in other cases, which ought to have led them
to understand that a proper division of local from fed-
eral authority, or some part of the Constitution, for-
bids the federal government to control as to slavery in
the federal territories, he is right to say so. But he
should, at the same time, brave the responsibility of
declaring that, in his opinion, he understands their
principles better than they did themselves ; and espe-
cially should he not shirk that responsibility by assert-
ing that they "understood the question just as well and
even better than we do now."

But enough ! Let all who believe that "our fathers
who framed the government under which we live un-
derstood this question just as well, and even better


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