Abraham Lincoln.

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

. (page 34 of 91)
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for the Senate. Senator Douglas is of world-wide renown. All the
anxious politicians of his party, or who have been of his party for
yeai'S past, have been looking upon him as certainly, at no distant
day, to be the President of the United States. They have seen in
his round, jolly, fruitful face, post-offices, land-offices, marshalships
and cabinet appointments, charg^ships and foreign missions, burst-
ing and sprouting out in wonderful exuberance, ready to be laid
hold of by their greedy hands. And as they have been gazing upon
this attractive picture so long, they cannot, in the Httle distraction
that has taken place in the party, bring themselves to give up the
charming hope ; but with greedier anxiety they rush about him, sus-
tain him, and give him marches, triumphal entries, and receptions
beyond what even in the days of his highest prosperity they could
have brought about in his favor. On the contrary, nobody has ever
expected me to be President. In my poor, lean, lank face nobody
has ever seen that any cabbages were sprouting out. These are
disadvantages all, taken together, that the Republicans labor under.
We have to fight this battle upon principle, and upon principle alone.
I am, in a certain sense, made the standard-bearer in behalf of the
Republicans. I was made so merely because there had to be some one
so placed, I being in no wise preferable to any other one of the twenty-
five, perhaps a hundred, we have in the Republican ranks. Then I
say I wish it to be distinctly understood and borne in mind, that


we have to fight this battle without many — perhaps without any —
of the external aids which are brought to bear against us. So I hope
those mth whom I am surrounded have principle enough to nerve
themselves for the task, and leave nothing undone that can be fairly
done to bring about the right result.

After Senator Douglas left Washington, as his movements were
made known by the public prints, he tarried a considerable time in the
city of New York ; and it was heralded that, like another Napoleon,
he was lying by and framing the plan of his campaign. It was
telegraphed to Washington City, and published in the " XJnion," that
he was framing his plan for the purpose of going to Illinois to
pounce upon and annihilate the treasonable and disunion speech
which Lincoln had made here on the 16th of June. Now, I do sup-
pose that the judge really spent some time in New York maturing
the plan of the campaign, as his friends heralded for him. I have
been able, by noting his movements since his arrival in Illinois, to
discover evidences confirmatory of that allegation. I think I have
been able to see what are the material points of that plan. I will, for
a little while, ask your attention to some of them. What I shall
point out, though not showing the whole plan, are nevertheless the
main points, as I suppose.

They are not very numerous. The first is popular sovereignty.
The second and third are attacks upon my speech made on the 16th
of June. Out of these three points — drawing within the range of
popular sovereignty the question of the Lecompton constitution —
he makes his principal assault. Upon these his successive speeches
are substantially one and the same. On this matter of popular sov-
ereignty I wish to be a little careful. Auxiliary to these main points,
io be sure, are their thunderings of cannon, their marching and
music, their fizzle-gigs and fireworks; but I wUl not waste time
■\yith them. They are but the little trappings of the campaign.

Coming to the substance, the first point, "popular sovereignty."
It is to be labeled upon the cars in which he travels ; put upon the
hacks he rides in ; to be flaunted upon the arches he passes under,
and the banners which wave over him. It is to be dished up in as
many varieties as a French cook can produce soups from potatoes.
Now, as this is so great a staple of the plan of the campaign, it is
worth while to examine it carefully ; and if we examine only a very
little, and do not allow ourselves to be misled, we shall be able to
see that the whole thing is the most arrant quixotism that was ever
enacted before a community. What is the matter of popular sov-
ereignty f The first thing, m order to understand it, is to get a good
definition of what it is, and after that to see how it is applied.

I suppose almost every one knows that, in this controversy, what-
ever has been said has had reference to the question of negro
slavery. We have not been in a controversy about the right of the
people to govern themselves in the ordinary matters of domestic
concern in the States and Territories. Mr. Buchanan, in one of his
late messages (I think when he sent up the Lecompton constitution),
urged that the main point of public attention was not in regard to
the great variety of small domestic matters, but was directed to


the question of negro slavery: and he asserts that if the people had
had a fair chance to vote on that question, there was no reasonable
ground of objection in regard to minor questions. Now, while I
think that the people had not had given, or offered them, a fair
chance upon that slavery question, still, if there had been a fair
submission to a vote upon that main question, the President's pro-
position would have been true to the uttermost. Hence, when here-
after I speak of popular sovereignty, I wish to be understood as
applying what I say to the question of slavery only, not to other
minor domestic matters of a Territory or a State.

Does Judge Douglas, when he says that several of the past years
of his life have been devoted to the question of "popular sover-
eignty," and that all the remainder of his life shall be devoted to it,
does he mean to say that he has been devoting his life to securing
to the people of the Territories the right to exclude slavery from
the Territories? If he means so to say, he means to deceive; be-
cause he and every one knows that the decision of the WujDreme
Court, which he approves and makes especial ground of attack upon
me for disapproving, forbids the people of a Territory to exclude
slavery. This covers the whole ground, from the settlement of a
Territory till it reaches the degree of maturity entitling it to form
a State constitution. So far as all that ground is concerned, the
judge is not sustaining popular sovereignty, but absolutely oppos-
ing it. He sustains the decision which declares that the popular
will of the Territories has no constitutional power to exehule
slavery during their territorial existence. This being so, the period
of time from the first settlement of a Territory till it reaches the
point of forming a State constitution is not the thing that the
judge has fought for, or is fighting for; but on the contrary, he has
fought for, and is fighting for the thing that annihilates and crushes
out that same popular sovereignty.

Well, so much being disposed of, what is left ? Why, he is con-
tending for the right of the people, when they come to make a St;ite
constitution, to make it for themselves, and precisely as best suits
themselves. I say again, that is quixotic. I defy contradiction
when I declare that the judge can find no one to oppose him on that
proposition. I repeat, there is nobody opposing that proposition on
principle. Let me not be misunderstood. I know that, with refer-
ence to the Lecompton constitution, I may be misunderstood ; 1 jut
when you understand me correctly, my proposition wiU be true and
accurate. Nobody is opposing, or has opposed, the right of the peo-
ple, when they fornj a constitution, to form it for themselves. Mr.
Buchanan and his friends have not done it ; they, too, as well as the
Republicans and the Anti-Lecompton Democrats, have not done it ;
but, on the contrary, they together have insisted on the right of the
people to form a constitution for themselves. The difference be-
tween the Buchanan men on the one hand, and the Douglas men
and the Republicans on the other, has not been on a question of
principle, but on a question of fact.

The dispute was upon the question of fact, whether the Lecomp-
ton constitution had been fairly formed by the people or not. Mr.


Buchanan and his friends have not contended for the contrary prin-
ciple any more than the Douglas men or the Republicans. They
have insisted that whatever of small irregularities existed in getting
up the Leeompton constitution were such as happen in the settle-
ment of all new Territories. The question was, was it a fair emana-
tion of the people '? It was a question of fact and not of principle.
As to the principle, all were agreed. Judge Douglas voted with the
Republicans upon that matter of fact.

He and they, by their voices and votes, denied that it was a fair
emanation of the people. The administration afftrmed that it was.
With respect to the evidence bearing upon that question of fact, I
readily agree that Judge Douglas and the Republicans had the right
on their side, and that the administration was wrong. But I state
again that, as a matter of principle, there is no dispute upon the
right of a people in a Territory merging into a State to form a
constitution for themselves without outside interference from any
quarter. This being so, what is Judge Douglas going to spend his
life for? Does he expect to stand up in majestic dignity, and go
through his apotheosis and become a god, in the maintaining of a
principle which neither man nor mouse in all God's creation is op-
posing? Now something in regard to the Leeompton constitution
more specially; for I pass from this other question of popular sov-
ereignty as the most arrant humbug that has ever been attempted
on an intelligent community.

As to the Leeompton constitution, I have already said that on the
question of fact as to whether it was a fair emanation of the people
or not, Judge Douglas with the Republicans and some "Americans"
had greatly the argument against the administration; and while I
repeat this, I wish to know what there is in the opposition of Judge
Douglas to the Leeompton constitution that entitles him to be con-
sidered the only opponent to it — as being par excellence the very
quintessence of that opposition. I agree to the rightfulness of his
opposition. He in the Senate, and his class of men there, formed
the number three and no more. In the House of Representatives
his class of men — the Anti-Lecompton Democrats — formed a
number of about twenty. It took one hundred and twenty to defeat
the measure, against one hundred and twelve. Of the votes of that
one hundred and twenty. Judge Douglas's friends furnished twenty,
to add to which there were six Americans and ninety-four Republi-
cans. I do not say that I am precisely accurate in theii- numbers,
but I am sufficiently so for any use I am making of it.

Why is it that twenty shall be entitled to all the credit of doing
that work, and the hundred none of it ? Why, if, as Judge Douglas
says, the honor is to be divided and due credit is to be given to
other parties, why is just so much given as is consonant with the
wishes, the interests, and advancement of the twenty? My under-
standing is, when a common job is done, or a common enterprise
prosecuted, if I put in five dollars to your one, I have a right to
take out five dollars to your one. But he does not so understand it.
He declares the dividend of credit for defeating Leeompton upon a
basis which seems unprecedented and incomprehensible.


Let US see. Leeompton in the raw was defeated. It afterward
took a sort of cooked-up shape, and was passed in the English bill.
It is said by the judge that the defeat was a good and proper thing.
If it was a good thing, why is he entitled to more credit than others
for the performance of that good act, unless there was something
in the antecedents of the Rcpublicaus that might induce every one
to expect them to join in tiat good w(.irk, and at the same time
something leading them to doubt that he would? Does he place his
superior claim to credit on the ground that he performed a good aet
which was never expected of him? He says I have a proneness for
quoting scripture. If I should do so now, it occurs that perhaps he
places himself somewhat upon the ground of the parable of the lost
sheep which went astray upon the mountains, and when the owner
of the hundred sheep found the one that was lost, and threw it upon
his shoulders, and came home rejoicing, it was said that there was
more rejoicing over the one sheep that was lost and had been found,
than over the ninety and nine in the fold. The application is made
by the Saviour in this parable, thus : " Verily, I say unto you, there
is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than
over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance.''

And now, if the judge claims the benefit of this parable, let him
repent. Let him not come up here and say : " I am the only just per-
son; and you are the ninety-nine sinners !" Repentance before for-
giveness is a provision of the Christian system, and on that condition
alone will the Republicans grant him forgiveness.

How will he prove that we have ever occupied a different position
in regard to the Leeompton constitution or any principle in it ? He
says he did not make his opposition on the ground as to whether it
was a free or slave constitution, and he would have you understand
that the Republicans made their opposition because it ultimately be-
came a slave constitution. To make proof in favor of himself on this
point, he reminds us that he opposed Leeompton before the vote was
taken declaring whether the State was to be free or slave. But he
forgets to say that our Republican senator, Trumbull, made a speech
against Leeompton even before he did.

Why did he oppose it? Partly, as he declares, because the mem-
bers of the convention who framed it were not fairly elected by the
people; that the people were not allowed to vote unless they had been
registered ; and that the people of whole counties, in some instances,
were not registered. For these reasons he declares the constitution
was not an emanation, in any true sense, from the people. He also
has an additional objection as to the mode of submitting the consti-
tution back to the people. But bearing on the question of whether
the delegates were fairly elected, a speech of his, made something
more than twelve months ago from this stand, becomes important.
It was made a little while before the election of the delegates who
made Leeompton. In that speech he declared there was every reason
to hope and believe the election would be fair, and if any one failed
to vote it would be his own culpable fault.

I, a few days after, made a sort of answer to that speech. In that
answer I made substantially the very argument with which he com-


bated his Lecompton adversaries in the Senate last winter. I pointed
to the facts that the people could not vote without being registered,
and that the time for registering had gone by. I commented on it
as wonderful that Judge Douglas could be ignorant of these facts,
which every one else in the nation so well knew".

I now pass from popular sovereignty and Lecompton. I may have
occasion to refer to one or both.

When he was preparing his plan of campaign, Napoleon-like, in
New York, as appears by two speeches I have heard him deliver since
his arrival in Illinois, he gave special attention to a speech of mine
delivered here on the 16th of June last. He says that he carefully
read that speech. He told us that at Chicago a week ago last night,
and he repeated it at Bloomington last night. Doubtless he repeated
it again to-day, though I did not hear him. In the two first places —
Chicago' and Bloomington — 1 heard him ; to-day I did not. He said
he had carefuUy examined that speech; when, he did not say; but
there is no reasonable doubt it was when he was in New York pre-
paring his plan of campaign. I am glad he did read it carefully. He
says it was evidently prepared with great care. I freely admit it was
prepared with care. I claim not to be more free from errors than
others — perhaps scarcely so much ; but 1 was very careful not to put
anything in that speech as a matter of fact, or make any inferences
which did not appear to me to be true and fully warrantable. If 1
bad made any mistake I was willing to be corrected; if I had drawn
any inference in regard to Judge Douglas, or any one else, which was
not warranted, I was fully prepared to modify it as soon as discovered.
I planted myself upon the truth and the truth only, so far as I knew
it, or could be brought to know it.

Having made that speech with the most kindly feelings toward
Judge Douglas, as manifested therein, I was gratified when I found
that he had carefully examined it, and had detected no error of fact,
nor any inference against him, nor any misrepresentations, of which
he thought fit to complain. In neither of the two speeches I have
mentioned, did he make any such complaint. I will thank any one
who will inform me that he, in his speech to-day, pointed out any-
thing I had stated, respecting him, as being erroneous. I presume
there is no such thing. I have reason to be gratified that the care
and caution used in that speech left it so that he, most of all others
interested in discovering error, has not been able to point out one
thing against him which he coiild say was wrong. He seizes upon
the doctrines he supposes to be included in that speech, and de-
clares that upon them will turn the issues of the cainpaign. He
then quotes, or attempts' to quote, from my speech. I will not say
that he wilfully misquotes, but he does fail to quote accurately.
His attempt at quoting is from a passage which I believe I can quote
accurately from memory. I shall make the quotation now, with
some Comments upon it, as I have already said, in order that the
judge shall be left entirely without excuse for misrepresenting me.
1 do so now, as I hope, for the last time. I do this in great caution,
in order that if he repeats his misrepresentation, it shall be plain to
all that he does so wilfully. If, after all, he still persists, I shall be


compelled to reconstruct the course I have marked out for myself, and
draw upon such hiimble resources as I have for a new course, better
suited to the real exigencies of the case. I set out, in this campaign,
with the intention of conducting it strictly as a gentleman, in sub-
stance at least, if not in the outside polish. The latter I shall
never be, but that which constitutes the inside of a gentleman I
hope I understand, and am not less inclined to practise than others.
It was my pm-pose and expectation that this canvass would be con-
ducted upon principle, and with fairness on both sides, and it shall
not be my fault if this purpose and expectation shall be given up.

He charges, in substance, that I invite a war of sections ; that I
propose all local institutions of the different States shall become
consolidated and uniform. What is there in the language of that
speech which expresses such purpose or bears such construction f
I have again and again said that I would not enter into any of the
States to disturb the institution of slavery. Judge Douglas said,
at Bloomington, that I used language most able and ingenious for
concealing what I really meant; and that while I had protested
against entering into the slave States, I nevertheless did mean to go
on the banks of the Ohio and throw missiles into Kentucky, to dis-
turb them in their domestic institutions.

I said in that speech, and I meant no more, that the institution of
slavery ought to be placed in the very attitude where the franiers of
this government placed it and left it. I do not understand that the
framers of our Constitution left the people in the free States in the
attitude of firing bombs or shells into the slave States. I was not using
that passage for the purpose for which he infers I did use it. I said :

"We are now far advanced into the fifth year since a policy was created
for the avowed object and with the confident promise of putting an end to
slavery agitation. Under the operation of that poUcy that agitation has
not only ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion it will not
cease tUl a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided
against itself cannot stand." I believe that this government cannot endui-e
permanently half slave and half free. It wUl become all one thing or all
the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread
of it, and place it where the pubhc mind shall rest in the beUef that it is in
the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till
it shall become aUke lawful in all the States, old as weU as new. North as
weU as South.

Now you all see, from that quotation, I did not express my wish
on anything. In that passage I indicated no wish or purpose of my
own ; I simply expressed my expectation. Cannot the judge per-
ceive a distinction between a purpose and an expectation? I have
often expressed an expectation to die, but I have never expressed a
wish to die. I said at Chicago, and now repeat, that I am quite
aware this government has endured half slave and half free for
eighty-two years. I understand that little bit of history. I expressed
the opinion I did, because I perceived — or thought I perceived — anew
set of causes introduced. I did say at Chicago, in my speech there,
that I do wish to see the spread of slavery arrested, and to see it
placed where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the


course of ultimate extinction. I said that because I supposed, when
the public mind shall rest in that belief, we shall have peace on the
slavery question. I have believed — and now believe — the public mind
did rest in that belief up to the introduction of the Nebraska bill.

Although I have ever been opposed to slavery, so far I rested
in the hope and belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinc-
tion. For that reason, it had been a minor question with me. I
might have been mistaken ; but I had believed, and now believe,
that the whole public mind, that is, the mind of -the great majority,
had rested in that belief up to the repeal of the Missouri Compro-
mise. But upon that event, I became convinced that either I had
been resting in a delusion, or the institution was being placed on a
new basis — a basis for making it perpetual, national, and universal.
Subsequent events have greatly confirmed me in that belief. I be-
lieve that bill to be the beginning of a conspiracy for that purpose.
So believing, I have since then considered that question a paramount
one. So believing, I think the public mind will never rest till the
power of Congress to restrict the spread of it shall again be ac-
knowledged and exercised on the one hand, or, on the other, all re-
sistance be entirely crushed out. I have expressed that opinion,
and I entertain it to-night. It is denied that there is any tendency
to the nationalization of slavery in these States.

Mr. Brooks, of South Carolina, in one of his speeches, when they
were presenting him canes, silver plate, gold pitchers and the like,
for assaulting Senator Sumner, distinctly affirmed his opinion that
when this Constitution was formed, it was the belief of no man
that slavery would last to the present day.

He said, what I think, that the framers of our Constitution placed
the institution of slavery where the public mind rested in the hope
that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. But he went on to
say that the men of the present age, by their experience, have be-
come wiser than the framers of the Constitution ; and the invention
of the cotton-gin had made the perpetuity of slavery a necessity in
this country.

As another piece of evidence tending to this same point. Quite
recently in Virginia, a man — the owner of slaves — made a will
providing that after his death certain of his slaves should have their
freedom if they should so choose, and go to Liberia, rather than re-
main in slavery. They chose to be liberated. But the persons to
whom they would descend as property claimed them as slaves. A
suit was instituted, which finally came to the Supreme Court of Vir-

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 34 of 91)