Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

. (page 30 of 91)
Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 30 of 91)
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could, at their own pleasure, emancipate their slaves ; but since then


such legal resti-aints have been made upon emancipation as to
amount almost to prohibition. In those da.ys legislatures held the
unquestioned power to abolish slavery in their respective States, but
now it is becoming quite fashionable" for State constitutions to with-
hold that power from the legislatures. In those days, by common
consent, the spread of the black man's bondage to the new countries
was prohibited, but now Congress decides that it will not continue
the prohibition, and the Supreme Court decides that it could not if
it would. In those days our Declaration of Independence was held
sacred by all, and thought to include all; but now, to aid in making
the bondage of the negro universal and eternal, it is assailed and
sneered at and construed, and hawked at and torn, till, if its framers
could rise from their graves, they could not at all recognize it. AU
the powers of earth seem rapidly combining against him. Mammon
is after him, ambition follows, philosophy follows, and the theology
of the day is fast joining the cry. They have him in bis prison-
house ; they have searched his person, and left no prying instrument
with him. One after another they have closed the heavy iron doors
upon him ; and now they have him, as it were, bolted in with a
lock of a hundred keys, which can never be unlocked without the
concurrence of every key — the keys in the hands of a hundred differ-
ent men, and they scattered to a hundred different and distant
places; and they stand musing as to what invention, in all the do-
minions of mind and matter, can be produced to make the impossi-
bility of his escape more complete than it is.

It is grossly incorrect to say or assume that the public estimate
of the negro is more favorable now than it was at the origin of the

Three rears and a half ago, Judge Douglas brought forward his
famous Nebraska bill. The country was at once in a blaze. He
scorned all opposition, and carried it through Congress. Since then
he has seen himself superseded in a presidential nomination by one
indorsing the general doctrine of his measure, but at the same time
standing clear of the odium of its untimely agitation and its gross
breach of national faith; and he has seen that successful rival con-
stitutionally elected, not by the strength of friends, but by the divis-
ion of adversaries, being in a popular minority of nearly four hundred
thousand votes. He has seen his chief aids in his own State, Shields
and Richardson, politically speaking, successively tried, convicted,
and executed for an offense not their own, but his. And now he
sees his own case standing next on the docket for trial.

There is a natural disgust in the minds of nearly all white people
at the idea of an indiscriminate amalgamation of the white and black
races; and Judge Douglas evidently is basing his chief hope upon
the chances of his being able to appropriate the benefit of this dis-
gust to himself. If he can, by much drumming and repeating, fasten
the odium of that idea upon his adversaries, he thinks he can struggle
through the storm. He therefore clings to this hope, as a drowning
man to the last plank. He makes an occasion for lugging it in from
the opposition to the Dred Scott decision. He finds the Republicans
insisting that the Declaration of Independence includes all men,



black as well as white, and fortliwitli lie boldly denies that it includes
negroes at all, and proceeds to argue gravely that all who contend it
does, do so only because they want to vote, and eat, and sleep, and
marry with negroes! He will have it that they cannot be consistent
else. Now I protest against the counterfeit logic which concludes
that, because I do not want a black woman for a slave I must neces-
sarily want her for a wife. I need not have her for either. I can just
leave her alone. In some respects she certainly is not my equal; but
in her natujal right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands
without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal
of all others.

Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott ease, admits
that the language of the Declaration is broad enough to include the
whole human family, but he and Judge Douglas argue that the au-
thors of that instrument did not intend to include negroes, by the
fact that they did not at once actually place them on an equality with
the whites. Now this grave argument comes to just nothing at all,
by the other fact that they did not at once, or ever afterward, actu-
ally place all white people on an equality with one another. And
this is the staple argument of both the chief justice and the senator
for doing this obvious violence to the plain, unmistakable language
of the Declaration.

I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include
all men, but they did not intend to declare all men equal in all re-
spects. They did not mean to say all were equal in color, size, intel-
lect, moral developments, or social capacity. They defined with
tolerable distinctness in what respects they did consider all men
created equal — equal with " certain inalienable rights, among which
are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This they said, and
this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth
that all were then actually enjoying that equality, nor yet that they
were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had
no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the
right, so that enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances
should permit.

They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which
should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to,
constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained,
constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and
deepening its influence and augmenting the happiness and value of
life to all people of all c6lors everywhere. The assertion that " all
men are created equal" was of no practical use in effecting our sepa-
ration from Great Britain ; and it was placed in the Declaration not
for that, but for future use. Its authors meant it to be — as, thank
God, it is now proving itself — a stumbling-block to aU those who
in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful
paths of despotism. They knew the proneness of prosperity to breed
tyrants, and they meant when such should reappear in this fair land
and commence their vocation, they should find left for them at least
one hard nut to crack.

I have now briefly expressed my view of the meaning and object


of that part of the Declaration of Independeuce which declares that
" all men are created equal."

Now let ns hear Judge Douglas's view of the same subject, as I
find it in the printed report of his late speech. Here it is :

No man can vindicate the character, motives, and conduct of the signers
of the Declaration of Independence, except upon the hypothesis that they
referred to the white race alone, and not to the African, when they de-
clared all men to have, been created equal; that they were speaking of i
British subjects on this continent being equal to British subjects born and '
residing in Great Britain ; that they were entitled to the same inalienable
rights, and among them were enumerated life, liberty, and the pursuit of |
happiness. The Declaration was adopted for the purpose of justifying the
colonists in the eyes of the civUized world in withdrawing then- aUe-
gianee from the British crown, and dissolving their connection with the
mother country.

My good friends, read that carefully over some leisure hour, and
ponder well upon it; see what a mere wreck — mangled ruin — it
makes of our once glorious Declaration.

"They were speaking of British subjects on this continent being
equal to British subjects born and residing in Great Britain 1 " Why,
according to this, not only negroes but white people outside of Great
Britain and America were not spoken of in that instrument. The
English, Irish, and Scotch, along with white Americans, were included,
to be sure, but the French, Germans, and other white people of the
world are all gone to pot along with the judge's inferior races !

I had thought the Declaration promised something better than the
condition of British subjects; but no, it only meant that we should
be equal to them in their own oppressed and unequal condition. Ac-
cording to that, it gave no promise that, having kicked off the king
and lords of Great Britain, we should not at once be saddled with a ,
king and lords of our own. /^ \ \

I had thought the Declaration contemplated(the progressive im- \ ';
provement^n the condition of aU men everywhere ; but no, it merely
" was adopted for the purpose of justifying the colonists in the
eyes of the civilized world in withdrawing their allegiance from the
British crown, and dissolving their connection with the mother
country." Why, that object having been effected some eighty years
ago, the Declaration is of no practical use now — mere rubbish — old
wadding left to rot on the battle-field after the victory is won.

I understand you are preparing to celebrate the "Fourth," to-
morrow week. What for? The doings of that day had no reference
to the present ; and quite half of you are not even descendants of
those who were referred to at that day. But I suppose you will cele-
brate, and will even go so far as to read the Declaration. Suppose,
after you read it once in the old-fashioned way, you read it once
more with Judge Douglas's version. It will then run thus: "We
hold these truths to be self-evident, that all British subjects who were
on this continent eighty-one years ago, were created equal to all Brit-
ish subjects born and then residing in Great Britain."

And now I appeal to aU — to Democrats as well as others — are you
really willing that the Declaration shall thus be frittered away? —


thus left no raore, at most, than an interesting memorial of the
dead past? — thus shorn of its vitality and practical value, and left
without the germ or even the suggestion of the individual rights of
man in it ?

But Judge Douglas is especially horrified at the thought of the
mixing of blood by the white and black races. Agreed for once —
a thousand times agreed. There are white men enough to marry
all the white women, and black men enough to marry all the black
women ; .and so let them be married. On this point we fuUy agree
with the judge, and when he shall show that his policy is better
adapted to prevent amalgamation than ours, we shall drop ours and
adopt his. Let us see. In 1850 there were in the United States
405,751 mulattos. Very few of these are the offspring of whites and
free blacks; nearly all have sprung from black slaves and white
masters. A separation of the races is the only perfect preventive of
amalgamation; but as an immediate separation is impossible, the
next best thing is to keep them apart where they are not already to-
gether. If white and black people never get together in Kansas, they
will never mix blood in Kansas. That is at least one self-evident
truth. A few free colored persons may get into the free States, in
any event ; but their number is too insignificant to amount to much
in the way of mixing blood. In 1850 there were in the free States
56,649 mulattos; but for the most part they were not born there —
they came from the slave States, ready made up. In the same year
the slave States had 348,874 mulattos, all of home production. The
proportion of free mulattos to free blacks — the only colored classes
in the free States — is much greater in the slave than in the free
States. It is worthy of note, too, that among the free States those
which make the colored man the nearest equal to the white have
proportionably the fewest mulattos, the least of amalgamation. In
New Hampshire, the State which goes farthest toward equality be-
tween the races, there are just 184 mulattos, while there are in Vir-
ginia — how many do you think? — 79,775, being 23,126 more than in
all the free States together.

These statistics show that slavery is the greatest source of amal-
gamation, and next to it, not the elevation, but the degradation of the
free blacks. Yet Judge Douglas dreads the slightest restraints on
the spread of slavery, and the slightest human recognition of the
negro, as tending horribly to amalgamation.

The very Dred Scott case affords a strong test as to which party
most favors amalgamation, the Republicans or the dear Union-sav-
ing Democracy. Dred Scott, his wife, and two daughters were all
involved in the suit. We desired the court to have held that they were
citizens so far at least as to entitle them to a hearing as to whether
they were free or not; and then, also, that they were in fact and in
law really free. Could we have had our way, the chances of these
black girls ever mixing their blood with that of white people would
have been diminished at least to the extent that it could not have
been without their consent. But Judge Douglas is delighted to have
them decided to be slaves, and not human enough to have a hearing,
even if they were free, and thus left subject to the forced concubinage


of their masters, and liable to become the mothers of mulattos in
spite of themselves : the very state of case that produces nine tenths
of all the mulattos — all the mixing of blood in the nation.

Of course, I state this case as an illustration only, not meaning to
say or intimate that the master of Dred Scott and his family, or any
more than a percentage of masters generally, are inclined to exer-
cise this particular power which they hold over their female slaves.

I have said that the separation of the races is the only perfect
preventive of amalgamation. I have no right to say all the mem-
bers of the Republican party are in favor of this, nor to say that as
a party they are in favor of it. There is nothing in their platform
directly on the subject. But I can say a very large proportion of
its members are for it, and that the chief plank in their platform
— opposition to the spread of slavery — is most favorable to that

Such separation, if ever effected at all, must be effected by colon-
ization; and no political party, as such, is now doing anything
directlj' for colonization. Party operations at present only favor or
retard colonization incidentally. The enterprise is a difaeult one;
but " where there is a will there is a way," and what colonization
needs most is a hearty will. Will springs from the two elements of
moral sense and self-interest. Let us be brought to believe it is
morally right, and at the same time favorable to, or at least not
against, our interest to transfer the African to his native clime, and
we shall find a way to do it, however great the task may be. The
children of Israel, to such numbers as to include four hundred
thousand fighting men, went out of Egyptian bondage in a body.

How differently the respective courses of the Democratic and Ee-
publican parties incidentally bear on the question of forming a will
— a public sentiment — for colonization, is easy to see. The Repub-
licans inculcate, with whatever of ability they can, that the negro is
a man, that his bondage is cruelly wrong, and that the field of his
oppression ought not to be enlarged. The Democrats deny his
manhood ; deny, or dwarf to insignificance, the wrong of his bon-
dage ; so far as possible, crush all sympathy for him, and cultivate
and excite hatred and disgust against him ; compliment themselves
as Union-savers for doing so ; and caU the indefinite outspreading
of his bondage " a sacred right of self-government."

The plainest print cannot be read through a gold eagle ; and it
will be ever hard to find many men who will send a slave to Liberia,
and pay his passage, while they can send him to a new country —
Kansas, for instance — and sell him for fifteen hundred dollars, and
the rise.

April 26, 1858. — Letter to E. B. Washburne.

• Urbana, Illinois, April 26, 1858.

Hon. E. B. Washburne.

My dear Sir : I am rather a poor correspondent, but I think per-
haps I ought to write you a letter just now. I am here at this time,
but I was at home during the sitting of the two Democratic conven-


tions. The day before those conventions I received a letter from
Chicago, having among other things on other subjects the follow-
ing in it :

A reliable Republican, but an old-Una Whig lawyer, in this city told me
to-day that he himself had seen a letter from one of onr Eepubliean con-
gressmen, advising us all to go for the reelection of Judge Douglas. He
said he was enjoined to keep the author a secret, and he was goLag to do so.
From him I learned that he was not an old-liae Democrat or Abolitionist.
This narrows the contest down to the congressmen from the Galena and
Fulton districts.

The above is a literal copy of all tbe letter contained on that sub-
ject. The morning of the conventions, Mr. Herndon sbowed me
your letter of the 15tb to him, which convinced me that the story
in the letter from Chicago was based upon some mistake, miscon-
struction of language, or the like. Several of our fi-iends were
down from Chicago, and they had something of the same story
amongst them, some half suspecting that you were inclined to favor
Douglas, and others thinking there was an effort to wrong you.

I thought neither was exactly the case ; that the whole had origi-
nated in some misconstruction coupled with a high degree of sensi-
tiveness on the point, and that the whole matter was not worth
another moment's consideration.

Such is my opinion now, and I hope you wiU have no concern
about it. I have written this because Charley Wilson told me he
was writing you, and because I expect Dr. Ray (who was a little
excited about the matter) has also written you ; and because I think
I, perhaps, have taken a calmer view of the thing than they may
have done. I am satisfied you have done no wrong, and nobody
has intended any wrong to you.

A word about the conventions. The Democracy parted in not a

very encouraged state of mind. On the contrary, our friends, a good

many of whom were present, parted in high spirits. They think if

we do not triumph, the fault will be our own, and so I really think.

Tour friend as ever, A. LEStcOLN.

May 10, 1858. — Letter to J. M. Lucas.

Springfield, May 10, 1858.
J. M. Lucas, Esq.

My dear Sir : Tour long and kind letter was received to-day. It
came upon me as an agreeable old acquaintance. Politically speaJc-
ing, there is a curious state of things here. The impulse of almost
every Democrat is to stick to Douglas ; but it horrifies them to have
to follow him out of the Democratic party. A good many are an-
noyed that he did not go for the English contrivance, and thusTieal
the breach. They begin to think there is a " negro in the fence," —
that Douglas really wants to have a fuss with the President; — that
sticks in their throats. Tours truly,

A. Lincoln.


May 10, 1858. — Letter to E. B. Washburne.

Springfield, Illinois, May 10, 1858.
Hon. E. B. "Washburne.

My dear Sir: I have just reached home from the circuit, and
found your letter of the 2d, for which I thank you. My other
letter to you was meant for nothing but to hedge against bad feel-
ing being gotten up between those who ought to be friends, out of
the incident mentioned in that letter. I sent you an extract from
the Chicago letter in order to let you see that the writer did not pro-
fess to know anything himself; and I now add that his informant
told me that he did tell him exactly what he wrote me — at least
I distinctly so understood him. The informant is an exceedingly
clever fellow ; and 1 think he, having had a hasty glance at your
letter to Charley Wilson, misconstrued it, and consequently misre-
ported it to the writer of the letter to me. I must repeat that I
think the thing did not originate in malice to you, or to any one,
and that the best way all round is to now forget it entirely. Will
you not adjoui-n in time to be here at our State convention in June?
Tour friend as ever, A. Lincoln.

May 15, 1858. — Letter to E. B. Washburne.

Springfield, May 15, 1858.
Hon. E. B. Washburne.

My dear Sir : Tours of the 6th, accompanied by yours of April
12th to C. L. Wilson, was received day before yesterday. There
certainly is nothing in the letter to Wilson which I in particular, or
Republicans in general, could complain of. Of that 1 was quite sat-
isfied before I saw the letter. I believe there has been no malicious
intent to misrepresent you ; I hope there is no longer any misunder-
standing, and that the matter may drop.

Eight or ten days ago I wrote Kellogg from Beardstown. Get
him to show you the letter. It gave my view of the field as it ap-
peared then. Nothing has occurred since, except that it grows more
and more quiet since the passage of the English contrivance.

The "State Register" here is evidently laboring to bring its old
friends into what the doctors call the "comatose state," — that is, a
sort of drowsy, dreamy condition, in which they may not perceive or
remember that there has ever been, or is, any difference between
Douglas and the President. This could be done if the Buchanan
men would allow it — which, however, the latter seem determined
not to do.

I think our prospects gradually and steadily gi'ow better, though
we are not yet clear out of the woods by a great deal. There is
still some effort to make trouble out of "Americanism." If that
were out of the way, for all the rest, I believe we should be " out of
the woods." Tours very truly,

A. Lincoln.


May 27, 1858. — Lbttek to E. B. Washburne.

Springfield, May 27, 1858.
Hon. E. B. Washburne.

My dear Sir : Yours requesting me to return you the now some-
what noted " Charley WUson letter," is received, and I herewith
return that letter. Political matters just now bear a very mixed
and incongruous aspect. For several days the signs have been that
Douglas and the President have probably buried the hatchet, —
Douglas's friends at "Washington going over to the President's side,
and his friends here and South of here talking as if there never had
been any serious diflQculty, while the President himself does nothing
for his own peculiar friends here. But this morning my partner,
Mr. Herndon, receives a letter from Mr. Medill of the " Chicago
Tribune," showing the writer to be in great alarm at the prospect
North of Republicans going over to Douglas, on the idea that
Douglas is going to assume steep Free-soil ground, and furiously
assail the administration on the stump when he comes home. There
certainly is a double game being played somehow. Possibly — even
probably — Douglas is temporarily deceiving the President in order
to crush out the 8th of June convention here. Unless he plays his
double game more successfully than we have often seen done, he
cannot carry many Republicans North, without at the same time
losing a larger number of his old friends South. Let this be con-
fidential. Yours as ever,

A. Lincoln.

June 1, 1858.— Letter to Charles L.Wilson.

Springfield, June 1, 1858.
Charles L. Wilson, Esq.

My dear Sir: Yours of yesterday, with the inclosed newspaper
slip, is received. I have never said or thought more, as to the incli-
nation of some of our Eastern Republican friends to favor Douglas,
than I expressed in your hearing on the evening of the 21st of
April, at the State library in this place. I have believed — I do
believe now — that Greeley, for instance, would be rather pleased to
see Douglas reelected over me or any other Republican ; and yet I
do not believe it is so because of any secret arrangement with Doug-
las. It is because he thinks Douglas's superior position, reputation,
experience, ability, if you please, would more than compensate for
his lack of a pure Republican position, and therefore his reelection
do the generi cause of Republicanism more good than would the
election of any one of our better undistinguished pure Republicans.
I do not know how you estimate Greeley, but I consider him incapable

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 30 of 91)