Abraham Lincoln.

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

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ginia, and was therein decided against the slaves, upon the ground
that a negro cannot make a choice — that they had no legal power
to choose — could not perform the condition upon which their free-
dom depended.

I do not mention this with any purpose of criticizing it, but to
connect it with the arguments as affording additional evidence of
the change of sentiment iipon this question of slavery in the direc-
tion of making it perpetual and national. I argue now as I did be-
fore, that there is such a tendency, and I am backed not merely by
the facts, but by the open confession in the slave States.


And now, as to the judge's inference, that becanse I wish to see
slavery placed in the course of ultimate extinction — placed where
our fathers originally plaeeci it — I wish to annihilate the State leg-
islatures — to force cotton to grow upon the tops of the Green
Mountains — to freeze ice in Florida — to cut lumber on the broad
Illinois prairies — that I am in favor of all these ridiculous and im-
possible things.

It seems to me it is a complete answer to all this to ask, if, when
Congress did have the fashion of restricting slavery from free terri-
tory, when courts did have the fashion of deciding that taking a
slave into a free country made him free — I say it is a sufficient
answer to ask, if any of this ridiculous nonsense about consoli-
dation and uniformity did actually follow? Who. heard of any
such thing, because of the ordinance of '87? because of the Mis-
souri Restriction ? because of the numerous court decisions of that
character ?

Now, as to the Dred Scott decision ; for upon that he makes his
la«t point at me. He boldly takes ground in favor of that decision.
This is one half the onslaught, and one third of the entire plan
of the campaign. I am opposed to that decision in a certain sense,
but not in the sense which he puts on it. I say that in so far as it
decided in favor of Dred Scott's master, and against Dred Scott and
his family, I do not propose to disturb or resist the decision.

I never have proposed to do any such thing. I think that in re-
spect for judicial authority, my humble histoiy would not suffer in
comparison with that of Judge Douglas. He would have the citizen
conform his vote to that decision ; the member of Congress, his ; the
President, his use of the veto power. He would make it a rule of po-
litical action for the people and all the departments of the govern-
ment. I would not. By resisting it as a political rule, I disturb no
right of property, create no disorder, excite no mobs.

When bespoke at Chicago, on Fridayevening of lastweek,he made
this same point upon me. On Saturday evening I replied, and re-
minded him of a Supreme Court decision which he opposed for at
least several years. Last night, at Bloomington, he took some notice
of that reply, but entirely forgot to remember that part of it.

He renews his onslaught upon me, forgetting to remember that I
have turned the tables against himself on that very point. I renew
the effort to draw his attention to it. I wish to stand erect before
the country, as weU as Judge Douglas, on this question of judicial
authority, and therefore I add something to the authority in favor
of my own position. I wish to show that I am sustained by authority,
in addition to that heretofore presented. I do not expect to convince
the judge. It is part of the plan of his campaign, and he will cling
to it with a desperate grip. Even turn it upon him — the sharp
point against him, and gaff him through — he will still cling to it tUl
he can mvent some new dodge to take the place of it.

In public speaking it is tedious reading from documents, but I
must beg to indulge the practice to a limited extent. I shall read
from a letter written by Mr. Jefferson in 1820, and now to be found
in the seventh volume of his correspondence, at page 177. It seems


he had been presented by a gentleman of the name of Jarvis with a
book, or essay, or periodical, called the " Republican," and he was
writing in acknowledgment of the present, and noting some of its
contents. After expressing the hope that the work will produce a
favorable effect upon the minds of the young, he proceeds to say:

That it will have thi? tendency may be expected, and for that reason I feel
an urgency to note what I deem an error in it, the more requiring notice as
your opinion is strengthened by that of many others. You seem, in pages 84
and 148, to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional
questions — a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place
us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other
men, and not more so. They have, with others, the same passions for party,
for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is, "Boni judicis
est ampliare jurisdictionem'''' ; and their power is the more dangerous as they
are in of&ce for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to
the elective control. The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal,
knowing that, to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and
party, its members would become despots. It has more wisely made all the
departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.

Thus we see the power claimed for the Supreme Court by Judge
Douglas, Mr. Jefferson holds, would reduce us to the despotism of an

Now, I have said no more than this — in fact, never quite so much
as this — at least I am sustained by Mr. Jefferson.

Let us go a little further. You remember we once had a national
bank. Some one owed the bank a debt; he was sued and sought to
avoid payment, on the ground that the bank was unconstitutional.
The case went to the Supreme Court, and therein it was decided that
the bank was constitutional. The whole Democratic party revolted
against that decision. General Jackson himself asserted that he, as
President, would not be bound to hold a national bank to be consti-
tutional, even though the court had decided it to be so. He fell in
precisely with the view of Mr. Jefferson, and acted upon it under his
official oath, in vetoing a charter for a national bank. The declara-
tion that Congress does not possess this constitutional power to char-
ter a bank, has gone into the Democratic platform, at their national
conventions, and was brought forward and reaffirmed in their last
convention at Cincinnati. They have contended for that declaration,
in the very teeth of the Supreme Court, for more than a quarter of a
century. In fact, they have reduced the decision to an absolute nullity.
That decision, I repeat, is repudiated in the Cincinnati platform ; and
still, as if to show that effrontery can go no farther, Judge Douglas
vaunts, in the very speeches in which he denounces me for opposing
the Dred Scott decision, that he stands on the Cincinnati platform.

Now, I wish to know what the judge can charge upon me, with
respect to decisions of the Supreme Court, which does not lie in
aU its length, breadth, and proportions at his own door. The plain
truth is simply this : Judge Douglas is for Supreme Court decisions
when he likes, and against them when he does not like them. He is
for the Dred Scott decision because it tends to nationalize slavery
— because it is part of the original combination for that object. It


SO happens, singularly enough, that I nover stood opposed to a de-
cision of the Supreme Court tiU this. On the contrary, I have no
recollection that he was ever particularly in favor of one till this.
He never was in favor of any, nor opposed to any, till the present
one, which helps to nationafize slaveiy.

Free men of Sangamon, free men of Illinois, free men everywhere,
judge ye between him and me upon this issue.

He says this Dred Scott case is a very smaU matter at most; that
it has no practical effect ; that at best, or rather, I suppose, at worst,
it is but an abstraction. I submit that the proposition that the
thing which determines whether a man is free or a slave is
rather concrete than abstract. I think you would conclude that it
was if your liberty depended upon it, and so would Judge Douglas
if his liberty depended upon it. But suppose it was on the question
of spreading slavery over the new Territories that he considers it as
being merely an abstract matter, and one of no practical impor-
tance. How has the planting of slavery in new countries always
been effected? It has now been decided that slavery cannot be
kept out of our new Territories by any legal means. In what do
our new Territories now differ in this respect from the old colonies
when slavery was first planted within them ? It was planted as IMr.
Clay once declared, and as history proves true, by individual men in
spite of the wishes of the people ; the mother government refusing
to prohibit it, and withholding from the people of the colonies the
authority to prohibit it for themselves. Mr. Clay says this was one
of the great and just causes of complaint against Great Britain by
the colonies, and the best apology we can now make for having the
institution amongst us. In that precise condition our Nebraska
politicians have at last succeeded in placing our own new Territories ;
the government wUl not prohibit slavery within them, nor allow the
people to prohibit it.

I defy anv man to find any difference between the policy which
originally planted slavery in these colonies and that policy which
now prevails in our new Territories. If it does not go into them, it
is only because no individual wishes it to go. The judge indulged
himself doubtless, to-day, with the question as to what I am going
to do with or about the Dred Scott decision. Well, judge, will you
please tell me what you did about the bank decision 1 Will you not
graciously allow iis to do with the Dred Scott decision precisely as
you did with the bank decision 1 You succeeded in breaking down
the moral effect of that decision ; did you find it necessary to amend
the Constitution 1 or to set up a court of negroes in order to do it 1

There is one other point. Judge Douglas has a very affectionate
leaning toward the Americans and Old Whigs. Last evening, in a
sort of weeping tone, he described to us a death-bed scene. He had
been called to the side of Mr. Clay, in his last moments, in order
that the genius of " popular sovereignty " might duly descend from
the dying man and settle upon him, the living and most worthy suc-
cessor. He could do no less than promise that he would devote the
remainder of his life to " popular sovereignty " ; and then the great
statesman departs in peace. By this part of the " plan of the cam-


paign," the judge has evidently promised himself that tears shall be
drawn down the cheeks of all Old Whigs, as large as half-^rown apples.

Mr. "Webster, too, was mentioned ; but it did not quite come to a
death-bed scene, as to him. It would be amusing, if it were not
disgusting, to see how quick these compromise-breakers administer
on the political effects of their dead adversaries, trumping up claims
never before heard of, and dividing the assets among themselves.
If I should be found dead to-morrow morning, nothing but my in-
significance could prevent a speech being made on my authority,
before the end of next week. It so happens that in that " popular
sovereignty" with which Mr. Clay was identified, the Missouri
Compromise was expressly reserved ; and it was a little singular if
Mr. Clay cast his mantle upon Judge Douglas on purpose to have
that compromise repealed.

Again, the judge did not keep faith with Mr. Clay when he first
brought in his Nebraska bill. He left the Missouri Compromise un-
repealed, and in his report accompanying the bUl, he told the world
he did it on purpose. The manes of Mr. Clay must have been in great
agony, tiU thirty days later, when " popular sovereignty " stood forth
in all its glory.

One more thing. Last night Judge Douglas tormented himself
with horrors about my disposition to make negroes perfectly equal
with white men in social and political relations. He did not stop
to show that I have said any such thin§, or that it legitimately fol-
lows from anything I have said, but he rushes on with his asser-
tions. I adhere to the Declaration of Independence. If Judge
Douglas and his friends are not willing to stand by it, let them
come up and amend it. Let them make it read that all men are
created equal, except negroes. Let us have it decided whether the
Declaration of Independence, in this blessed year of 1858, shall be thus
amended. In his construction of the Declaration last year, he said
it only meant that Americans in America were equal to Englishmen
in England. Then, when I pointed out to him that by that rule he ex-
eludes the Germans, the Irish, the Portuguese, and all the other peo-
ple who have come amongst us since the Revolution, he reconstructs
his construction. In his last speech he tells us it meant Europeans.

I press him a little further, and ask if it meant to include the Rus-
sians in Asia ? or does he mean to exclude that vast population from
the principles of our Declaration of Independence? I expect ere
long he wfll introduce another amendment to his definition. He is
not at all particular. He is satisfied with anything which does not
endanger the nationalizing of negro slavery. It may draw white
men down, but it must not lift negroes up. Who shall say, " I am
the superior, and you are the inferior?"

My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be mis-
represented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do
not understand the Declaration to mean that aU men were created
equal in all respects. They are not our equal in color ; but I sup-
pose that it does mean to declare that all men are equal in some
respects ; they are equal in their right to " life, liberty, and the pur-
suit of happiness." Certainly the negro is not our equal in color —


perhaps not in many other respects ; still, in the right to put into
his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal
of every other man, white or black. In pointing out that more has
been given you, you cannot be justified in takiag away the little
which has been given him. All I ask for the negro is that if you
do not like him, let him alone. If God gave him but little, that
little let him enjoy.

When our government was established, we had the institution of
slavery among us. We were in a certain sense compelled to tolerate
its existence. It was a sort of necessity. We had gone through
our struggle, and secured our own independence. The framers of
the Constitution found the institution of slavery amongst their other
institutions at the time. They found that by an effort to eradicate
itj^ they might lose much of what they had already gained. They
were obliged to bow to the necessity. They gave power to Congress
to abolish the slave-trade at the end of twenty years. They also
prohibited slavery in the Territories where it did not exist. They did
what they could and yielded to necessity for the rest. I also yield
to aU which follows from that necessity. What I woidd most desire
would be the separation of the white and black races.

One more point on this Springfield speech which Judge Douglas
says he has read so carefully. I expressed my belief in the exis-
tence of a conspiracy to perpetuate and nationalize slavery. I did
not profess to know it, nor do I now. I showed the part Judge
Douglas had played in the string of facts, constituting to my mind
the proof of that conspiracy. I showed the parts played by others.

I charged that the people had been deceived into carrying the last
presidential election, by the impression that the people of the Terri-
tories might exclude slavery if they chose, when it was known in
advance by the conspirators, that the court was to decide that
neither Congress nor the people could so exclude slavery. These
charges are more distinctly made than anything else ia the speech.

Judge Douglas has carefully read and re-read that speech. He
has not, so far as I know, contradicted those charges. In the two
speeches which I heard he certainly did not. On his own tacit ad-
mission I renew that charge. I charge him with having been a
party to that conspiracy, and to that deception, for the sole purpose
of nationalizing slavery.

July 24 to July 31, 1858. — Challenge to the Joint Debates.

Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Douglas.

Chicago, Illinois, July 24, 1858.
Hon. S. a. Douglas.

My dear Sir: Will it be agreeable to you to make an arrangement
for you and myself to divide time, and address the same audiences
the present canvass ? Mr. Judd, who wiU hand you this, is authorized
to receive your answer ; and, if agreeable to you, to enter into the
terms of such arrangement. Your obedient servant,

A. Lincoln.
Vol. L— 18.


3Ir. Douglas to Mr. Lincoln.

Chicago, July 24, 1858.
Hon. a. Lincoln.

Bear 8ir : Your note of this date, in which you inquire if it would
be agreeable to me to make an arrangement to divide the time and
address the same audiences during the present canvass, was handed
me by Mr. Judd. Recent events have interposed difficulties in the
way of such an arrangement.

I went to Springfield last week for the purpose of conferring with
the Democratic State Central Committee upon the modeof conducting
the canvass, and with them, and under their advice, made a list of
appointments covering the entire period until late in October. The
people of the several localities have been notified of the times and
places of the meetings. Those appointments have all been made for
Democratic meetings, and arrangements have been made by which
the Democratic candidates for Congress, for the legislature, and other
offices will be present and address the people. It is evident, there-
fore, that these various candidates, in connection with myself, will
occupy the whole time of the day and evening, and leave no opportu-
nity for other speeches.

Besides, there is another consideration which should be kept in
mind. It has been suggested recently that an arrangement had been
made to bring out a third candidate for the United States Senate,
who, with yourself, should canvass the State in opposition to me, with
no other purpose than to insure my defeat, by dividing the Demo-
cratic party for your benefit. If I should make this arrangement
with you, it is more than probable that this other candidate, who
has a common object with you, would desire to become a party to
it, and claim the right to speak from the same stand; so that he
and you in concert might be able to take the opening and closing
speech in every case.

I cannot refrain from expressing my surprise, if it was your original
intention to invite such an arrangenffent, that you should have waited
until after I had made my appointments, inasmuch as we were both
here in Chicago together for several days after my arrival^ and again
at Bloomington, Atlanta, Lincoln, and Springfield, where it was well
known I went for the purpose of consulting with the State Central
Committee, and agreeing upon the plan of the campaign.

While under these circumstances I do not feel at liberty to make
any arrangements which would deprive the Democratic candidates
for Congress, State offices, and the legislature, from participating in
the discussion at the various meetings designated by the Democratic
State Central Committee, I will, in order to accommod ate you as far as
it is in my power to do so, take the responsibility of making an arrange-
ment with you for a discussion between us at one prominent point in
each congressional district in the State, except the second and sixth
districts, where we have both spoken, and in each of which cases you
had the concluding speech. If agreeable to you, I will indicat-e the
following places as those most stiitable in the several congressional


districts at which we should speak, to wit: Freeport, Ottawa, Gales-
burg, Quincy, Alton, Jonesboro, and Charleston. I will confer with
you at the earliest convenient opportunity in regard to the mode of
conducting the debate, the times of meeting at the several places,
subject to the condition that where appointments have already been
made by the Democratic State Central Committee at any of those
places, I must insist upon yon meeting me at the time specified.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

S. A. Douglas.

Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Douglas.

Springfield, July 29, 1858.
Hon. S. a. Douglas.

Dear Sir : Yours of the 24th in relation to an arrangement to di-
vide time and address the same audiences is received; and in
apology for not sooner replying, allow me to say that when I sat by
you at dinner yesterday I was not aware that you had answered my
note, nor certainly that my own note had been presented to you.
An hour after I saw a copy of your answer in the Chicago " Times,"
and reaching home, I found the original awaiting me. Protesting
that your insinuations of attempted unfairness on my part are un-
just, and with the hope that you did not very considerately make
them, I proceed to reply. To your statement that " It has been sug-
gested recently that an arrangement had been made to bring out a
third candidate for the United States Senate, who, with yourself,
should canvass the State in opposition to me," etc., I can only say
that such suggestion must have been made by yourself, for certainly
none such has been made by or to me, or otherwise, to my know-
ledge. Surely you did not deliberately conclude, as you insinuate,
that I was expecting to draw you into an arrangement of terms, to
be agreed on by yourself, by which a third candidate and myself
"in concert might be able to take the openiug and closing speech
in every case."

As to your surprise that I did not sooner make the proposal to
divide time with you, I can only say I made it as soon as I resolved
to make it. I did not know but that such proposal would come
from you; I waited respectfully to see. It may have been well
known to you that you went to Springfield for the purpose of agree-
ing on the plan of campaign; but it was not so known to me.
When your appointments were announced in the papers, extending
only to" the 21st of August, I for the first time considered it certain
that you would make no proposal to me, and then resolved that, if
my friends concurred, I would make one to you. As soon thereafter
as I could see and consult with friends satisfactorily, I did make
the proposal. It did not occur to me that the proposed arrangement
could derange your plans after the latest of your appointments al-
ready made. After that, there was before the election largely over
two months of clear time.

For you to say that we have already spoken at Chicago and
Springfield, and that on both occasions I had the concluding speech,


is hardly a fair statement. The truth rather is this: At Chicago,
July 9, you made a carefuUy prepared conclusion on my speech of
June 16. Twenty-four hours after, I made a hasty conclusion on
yours of the 9th. You had six days to prepare, and concluded on
me again at Bloomington on the 16th. Twenty-four hours after, I
concluded again on you at Springfield. In the mean time, you had
made another conclusion on me at Springfield which I did not hear,
and of the contents of which I knew nothing when I spoke; so that
your speech made in daylight, and mine at night, of the 17th, at
Sprin^eld, were both made in perfect independence of each other.
The dates of making aU these speeches will show, I think, that in the
matter of time for preparation the -advantage has all been on your
side, and that none of the external circumstances have stood to my

I agree to an arrangement for us to speak at the seven places you
have named, and at your own times, provided you name the times
at once, so that I, as well as you, can have to myself the time not
covered by the arrangement. As to the other details, I wish perfect
reciprocity, and no more. I wish as much time as you, and that
conclusions shall alternate. That is all. Your obedient servant,

A. Lincoln.

P. S. As matters now stand, I shall be at no more of your ex-
clusive meetings ; and for about a week from to-day a letter from

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 35 of 91)