A Lincoln.

Selections from the letters, speeches (Volume 2) online

. (page 5 of 13)
Online LibraryA LincolnSelections from the letters, speeches (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Dred Scott decision '' squatter sovereignty " squatted out of
existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding, — like the
mold at the foundry, served through one blast and fell back 5
into loose sand, — helped to carry an election, and then was
kicked to the winds. His late joint struggle with the Repub-
licans against the Lecompton constitution involves nothing of
the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a
point — the right of a people to make their own constitution — 10
upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection
with Senator Douglas's "care not" policy, constitute the piece
of machinery in its present state of advancement. This was the
third point gained. The working points of that machinery are : 1 5

(i) That no negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and
no descendant of such slave, can ever be a citizen of any state,
in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the
United States. This point is made in order to deprive the
negro in every possible event of the benefit of that provision 20
of the United States Constitution which declares that " the
citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and
immunities of citizens in the several States."

(2) That, " subject to the Constitution of the United States,"
neither Congress nor a territorial legislature can exclude slavery 25
from any United States territory. This point is made in order
that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, with-
out danger of losing them as property, and thus enhance the
chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

(3) That whether the holding a negro in actual slavery in a 30
free state makes him free as against the holder, the United
States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by
the courts of any slave state the negro may be forced into by
the master. This point is made not to be pressed immediately,


but, if acquiesced in for a while, and apparently indorsed by the
people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion
that what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred
Scott in the free state of Illinois, every other master may law-
5 fully do with any other one or one thousand slaves in Illinois
or in any other free state.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the
Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mold
public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, not to care

lo whether slavery is voted down or voted up. This shows exactly
where we now are, and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter, to go back and
run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated.
Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than

15 they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be
left " perfectly free," " subject only to the Constitution." What
the Constitution had to do with it outsiders could not then see.
Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche for the Dred
Scott decision to afterward come in, and declare the perfect

20 freedom of the people to be just no freedom at all. Why was
the amendment expressly declaring the right of the people
voted down ? Plainly enough now, the adoption of it would
have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision. Why was
the court decision held up ? Why even a senator's individual

25 opinion withheld till after the presidential election ? Plainly
enough now, the speaking out then would have damaged the
" perfectly free " argument upon which the election was to be
carried. Why the outgoing President's felicitation on the in-
dorsement ? Why the delay of a reargument ? Why the incom-

30 ing President's advance exhortation in favor of the decision ?
These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a
spirited horse preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreaded
that he may give the rider a fall. And why the hasty after-
indorsement of the decision by the President and others ?


We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations
are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed
timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten
out at different times and places and by different workmen, —
Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance, — and we 5
see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make
the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortises ex-
actly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different
pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece
too many or too few, not omitting even scaffolding — or, if a 10
single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly
fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in — in such a case
we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin
and Roger and James all understood one another from the be-
ginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn 15
up before the first blow was struck. . . .


(Extract from first debate between Lincoln and Douglas, Ottawa,

Illinois, August 21, 1858)

... I have no purpose, either directly or indirectly, to inter-
fere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists.
I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination
to do so. I have no purpose to introduce political and social 20
equality between the white and the black races. There is a
physical difference between the two, which, in my judgment,
will probably forever forbid their living together upon the foot-
ing of perfect equality ; and inasmuch as it becomes a necessity
that there must be a difference, I, as well as Judge Douglas, am 25
in favor of the race to which I belong having the superior posi-
tion. I have never said anything to the contrary, but I hold that,
notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the


negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the
Declaration of Independence — the right to life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled
to these as the white man. I agree with Judge Douglas he is
5 not my equal in many respects — certainly not in color, per-
haps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right
to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his
own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas,
and the equal of every living man. . . .



(Extract from sixth joint debate between Lincoln and Douglas,
Quincy, Illinois, October 13, 1858)

ID ... We have in this nation the element of domestic slavery.
It is a matter of absolute certainty that it is a disturbing element.
It is the opinion of all the great men who have expressed an
opinion upon it, that it is a dangerous element. We keep up a
controversy in regard to it. That controversy necessarily springs

15 from difference of opinion, and if we can learn exactly — can
reduce to the lowest elements — what that difference of opinion
is, we perhaps shall be better prepared for discussing the differ-
ent systems of policy that we would propose in regard to that
disturbing element. I suggest that the difference of opinion,

20 reduced to its lowest terms, is no other than the difference be-
tween the men who think slavery a wrong and those who do
not think it wrong. The Republican party think it wrong — we
think it is a moral, a social, and a political wrong. We think it
is a wrong not confining itself merely to the persons or the states

25 where it exists, but that it is a wrong which in its tendency, to
say the least, affects the existence of the whole nation. Because
we think it wrong, we prbpose a course of policy that shall deal


with it as a wrong. We deal with it as with any other wrong, in
so far as we can prev^ent its growing any larger, and so deal
with it that in the run of time there may be some promise of
an end to it. W'e have a due regard to the actual presence of
it amongst us, and the difficulties of getting rid of it in any satis- 5
factoiy way, and all the constitutional obligations thrown about
it. I suppose that in reference both to its actual existence in the
nation, and to our constitutional obligations, we have no right
at all to disturb it in the states where it exists, and we profess
that we have no more inclination to disturb it than we have the 10
right to do it. We go further than that : we don't propose to
disturb it where, in one instance, we think the Constitution would
permit us. We think the Constitution would permit us to dis-
turb it in the District of Columbia. Still we do not propose to
do that, unless it should be in terms which I don't suppose the 15
nation is very likely soon to agree to — the terms of making the
emancipation gradual and compensating the unwilling owners.
Where we suppose we have the constitutional right, we restrain
ourselves in reference to the actual existence of the institution
and the difficulties thrown about it. We also oppose it as an evil 20
so far as it seeks to spread itself. We insist on the policy that
shall restrict it to its present limits. We don't suppose that in
doing this we violate anything due to the actual presence of
the institution, or anything due to the constitutional guaranties
thrown around it. 25

We oppose the Dred Scott decision in a certain way, upon
which I ought perhaps to address you a few words. We do not
propose that when Dred Scott has been decided to be a slave by
the court, we, as a mob, will decide him to be free. We do not
propose that, when any other one, or one thousand, shall be de- 30
cided by that court to be slaves, we will in any violent way dis-
turb the rights of property thus settled ; but we nevertheless do
oppose that decision as a political rule, which shall be binding
on the voter to vote for nobody who thinks it wrong, which shall


be binding on the members of Congress or the President to
favor no measure that does not actually concur with the prin-
ciples of that decision. We do not propose to be bound by it
as a political rule in that way, because we think it lays the foun-
5 dation not merely of enlarging and spreading out what we con-
sider an evil, but it lays the foundation for spreading that evil
into the states themselves. We propose so resisting it as to
have it reversed if we can, and a new judicial rule established
upon this subject.

lo I will add this, that if there be any man who does not believe
that slavery is wrong in the three aspects which I have men-
tioned, or in any one of them, that man is misplaced and ought
to leave us. While, on the other hand, if there be any man in
the Republican party who is impatient over the necessity spring-

15 ing from its actual presence, and is impatient of the constitu-
tional guaranties thrown around it, and would act in disregard of
these, he too is misplaced, standing with us. He will find his
place somewhere else ; for we have a due regard, so far as we
are capable of understanding them, for all these things. This,

20 gentlemen, as well as I can give it, is a plain statement of Our
principles in all their enormity.

I will say now that there is a sentiment in the country con-
trary to me — a sentiment which holds that slavery is not wrong,
and therefore it goes for the policy that does not propose deal-

25 ing with it as a wrong. That policy is the Democratic policy, and
that sentiment is the Democratic sentiment. If there be a doubt
in the mind of any one of this vast audience that this is really
the central idea of the Democratic party, in relation to this sub-
ject, I ask him to bear with me while I state a few things tend-

30 ing, as I think, to prove that proposition. In the first place, the
leading man — I think I may do my friend Judge Douglas the
honor of calling him such — advocating the present Democratic
policy never himself says it is wrong. He has the high distinc-
tion, so far as I know, of never having said slavery is either


right or wrong. Almost everybody else says one or the other,
but the judge never does. If there be a man in the Democratic
party who thinks it is wrong, and yet clings to that party, I sug-
gest to him in the first place that his leader don't talk as he does,
for he never says that it is wrong. In the second place, I sug- 5
gest to him that if he will examine the policy proposed to be
carried forward, he will find that he carefully excludes the idea
that there is anything wrong in it. If you will examine the argu-
ments that are made on it, you will find that every one carefully
excludes the idea that there is anything wrong in slavery. Per- 10
haps that Democrat who says he is as much opposed to slavery
as I am, will tell me that I am wrong about this. I wish him to
examine his own course in regard to this matter a moment, and
then see if his opinion will not be changed a little. You say it
is wrong; but don't you constantly object to anybody else say- 15
ing so ? Do you not constantly argue that this is not the right
place to oppose it ? You say it must not be opposed in the free
states, because slavery is not there ; it must not be opposed in
the slave states, because it is there ; it must not be opposed in
politics, because that will make a fuss ; it must not be opposed 20
in the pulpit, because it is not religion. Then where is the place
to oppose it ? There is no suitable place to oppose it. There is
no plan in the country to oppose this evil overspreading the con-
tinent, which you say yourself is coming. Frank Blair and Gratz
Brown tried to get up a system of gradual emancipation in Mis- 25
souri, had an election in August, and got beat ; and you, Mr.
Democrat, threw up your hat and hallooed, " Hurrah for
Democracy ! "

So I say again, that in regard to the arguments that are
made, when Judge Douglas says he '' don't care whether slav- 30
ery is voted up or voted down," whether he means that as an
individual expression of sentiment, or only as a sort of statement
of his views on national policy, it is alike true to say that he can
thus argue logically if he don't see anything wrong in it ; but he


cannot say so logically if he admits that slavery is wrong. He
cannot say that he would as soon see a wrong voted up as voted
down. When Judge Douglas says that whoever or whatever
community wants slaves, they have a right to have them, he is
5 perfectly logical if there is nothing wrong in the institution ; but
if you admit that it is wrong, he cannot logically say that any-
body has a right to do wrong. When he says that slave prop-
erty and horse and hog property are alike to be allowed to go
into the territories, upon the principles of equality, he is reason-

10 ing truly if there is no difference between them as property ;
but if the one is property, held rightfully, and the other is wrong,
then there is no equality between the right and wrong ; so that,
turn it in any way you can, in all the arguments sustaining the
Democratic policy, and in that policy itself, there is a careful,

15 studied exclusion of the idea that there is anything wrong in
slavery. Let us understand this. I am not, just here, trying
to prove that we are right and they are wrong. I have been
stating where we and they stand, and trying to show what is
the real difference between us ; and I now say that whenever

20 we can get the question distinctly stated, — can get all these men
who believe that slavery is in some of these respects wrong, to
stand and act with us in treating it as a wrong, — then, and not
till then, I think, will we in some way come to an end of this
slavery agitation.



(Written for campaign purposes)

Springfield, December 20, 1859
J. W. Fell, Esq.

My dear Sir .

Herewith is a little sketch, as you requested. There is not

much of it, for the reason, I suppose, that there is not much of

me. If anything be made out of it, I wish it to be modest, and

not to go beyond the material. If it were thought necessary to

incorporate anything from any of my speeches, I suppose there 5

would be no objection. Of course it must not appear to have

been written by myself.

Yours very truly

A. Lincoln

I was born February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky.
My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished
families — second families, perhaps I should say. My mother, 10
who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of
Hanks, some of whom now^ reside in iVdams, and others in
Macon County, Illinois. My paternal grandfather, Abraham
Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Ken-
tucky about 1781 or 1782, where a year or two later he was killed 1 5
by the Indians, not in battle, but by stealth, when he was labor-
ing to open a farm in the forest. His ancestors, who were
Quakers, went to Virginia from Berks County, Pennsylvania.
An effort to identify them with the New England family of the
same name ended in nothing more definite than a similarity of 20
Christian names in both families, such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai,
Solomon, Abraham, and the like.

My father, at the death of his father, was but six years of
age, and he grew up literally without education. He removed
from Kentucky to what is now Spencer County, Indiana, in 25


my eighth year. We reached our new home about the time the
state came into the Union. It was a wild region, with many
bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew
up. There were some schools, so called, but no qualification

5 was ever required of a teacher beyond " readin', writin', and
cipherin' " to the rule of three. If a straggler supposed to un-
derstand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he
was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to
excite ambition for education. Of course, when I came of age

o I did not know much. Still, somehow, I could read, write, and
cipher to the rule of three, but that was all. I have not been to
school since. The little advance I now have upon this store
of education, I have picked up from time to time under the
pressure of necessity.

5 I was raised to farm work, which I continued till I was
twenty-two. At twenty-one I came to Illinois, Macon County.
Then I got to New Salem, at that time in Sangamon, now in
Menard County, where I remained a year as a sort of clerk in
a store. Then came the Black Hawk War ; and I was elected

10 a captain of volunteers, a success which gave me more pleasure
than any I have had since. I went the campaign, was elated,
ran for the legislature the same year (1832), and was beaten —
the only time I ever have been beaten by the people. The next
and three succeeding biennial elections I was elected to the

25 legislature. I was not a candidate afterward. During this legis-
lative period I had studied law, and removed to Springfield
to practice it. In 1846 I was once elected to the lower House
of Congress. Was not a candidate for reelection. From 1849 to
1854, both inclusive, practiced law more assiduously than ever

30 before. Always a Whig in politics ; and generally on the Whig
electoral tickets, making active canvasses. I was losing inter-
est in politics when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise
aroused me again. What I have done since then is pretty
well known.


If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may

be said I am, in height, six feet four inches, nearly ; lean in flesh,

weighing on an average one hundred and eighty pounds ; dark

complexion, with coarse black hair and gray eyes. No other

marks or brands recollected.

Yours truly

A. Lincoln


(Address at Cooper Union, New York, February 27, i860)

Mr. President and Fellow Citizens of Neiu \ ^ork : 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 10
following that presentation. In his speech last autumn at
Columbus, Ohio, as reported in the New York Times, Senator
Douglas said :

Our fathers, when they framed the government under which we
live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we 15
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 start-
ing-point for a discussion between Republicans and that wing
of the Democracy headed by Senator Douglas. It simply leaves 20
the inquiry : What was the understanding those fathers had of
the question mentioned ?

What is the frame of government under which we live ? The
answer must be, '' The Constitution of the United States."
That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, and 25
under which the present government first went into operation,
and twelve subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of
which were framed in 1789.


Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution ? I sup-
pose 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 exactly true to say they framed it,
5 and it is altogether true to say they fairly represented the opin-
ion 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.

1 take these " thirty-nine," for the present, as being '' our

lo 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, forbid our federal

1 5 government to control as to slavery in our federal territories ?
Upon this. Senator Douglas holds the affirmative, and Re-
publicans 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

2o 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

25 Congress of the Confederation had before them the ques-
tion 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

30 prohibition, thus showing that, in their understanding, no line
dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly

* The bill was reported by Thomas Jefferson. It prohibited slavery
after 1800 above the parallel of 31° north latitude. It failed to pass by
one vote.


forbade the federal government to control as to slavery in fed-
eral territor}\ The other of the four, James McHenry, voted
against the prohibition, showing that for some cause he thought
it improper to vote for it.

In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the conven- 5
tion was in session framing it, and w^hile the Northwestern
Territory still was the only territory owned by the United States,
the same question of prohibiting slaver)^ in the territory again
came before the Congress of the Confederation ; and two more
of the " thirty-nine " who afterward signed the Constitution were 10
in that Congress, and voted on the question. They- were William
Blount and William Few ; and they both 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 control as to slavery in federal terri- 15
tor^'. 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 slaver)^ in the territories

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryA LincolnSelections from the letters, speeches (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 13)