Abraham Lincoln.

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

. (page 37 of 91)
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them to come into the State and settle with the white man, if you
desire them to vote on an equality with yourselves, and to make
them eligible to office, to serve on juries, and to adjudge your rights,
then support Mr. Lincoln and the Black Republican party, who are
in favor of the citizenship of the negro. For one, I am opposed to
negro citizenship in any and every form. I believe this government
was made on the white basis. I believe it was made by white men,
for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am
in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European
birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians,
and other inferior races.

Mr. Lincoln, following the example and lead of aU the little Abo-
lition orators who go around and lecture in the basements of schools
and churches, reads from the Declaration of Independence that all
men were created equal, and then asks how can you deprive a negro
of that equality which God and the Declaration of Independence
award to him? He and they maintain that negro equality is guar-
anteed by the laws of God, and that it is asserted in the Decla-ration
of Independence. If they think so, of course they have a right to say
so, and so vote. I do not question Mr. Lincoln's conscientious belief
that the negro was made his equal, and hence is his brother; but for
my own part, I do not regard the negro as my equal, and positively
deny that he is my brother or any kin to me whatever. Lincoln has
evidently learned by heart Parson Lovejoy's catechism. He can re-
peat it as well as Farns worth, and he is worthy of a medal from Father
Giddings and Fred Douglass for his Abolitionism. He holds that the
negro was born his equal and yours, and that he was endowed with
equality by the Almighty, and that no human law can deprive him of
these rights which were guaranteed to him by the Supreme Ruler of
the universe. Now, I do not believe that the Almighty ever intended
the negro to be the equal of the white man. If he did, he has been a
long time demonstrating the fact. For thousands of years the negro
has been a race upon the earth, and during all that time, in all lati-
tudes and climates, wherever he has wandered or been taken, he has
/ been inferior to the race which he has there met. He belongs to an
inferior race, and must always oceupjr an inferior position. I do not
hold that because the negro is our inferior therefore he ought to
be a slave. By no means can such a conclusion be drawn from
what I have said. On the contrary, I hold that humanity and Chris-
tianity both require that the negro shaU have and enjoy every right,
every privilege, and every immunity consistent with the safety of the
society in which he lives. On that point, I presume, there can be no
diversity of opinion. You and I are bound to extend to our inferior



and dependent beings every right, every privilege, every facility and
immunity consistent with the public good. The question then arisi>s,
what rights and privileges are consistentwith the public good? This
is a question which each State and each Territory must decide for
itself — Illinois has decided it for herself. We have provided that
the negro shall not be a slave, and we have also provided that he ,
shall not be a citizen, but protect him in his civil rights^ in his Hfe, i
his person and his property, only depriving him of all pohtical rights
whatsoever, and refusing to put him on an equality with the white
man. That policy of Illinois is satisfactory to the Democratic party
and to me, and if it were to the Republicans, there would then be no
question upon the subject; but the Republicans say that he ought to
be made a citizen, and when he becomes a citizen he becomes your
equal, with all your rights and privileges. They assert the Dred ;
Scott decision to be monstrous because it denies that the negro is or '
can be a citizen under the Constitution.

Now, I hold that Illinois had a right to abolish and prohibit sla-
very as she did, and I hold that Kentucky has the same right to con-
tinue and protect slavery that Illinois had to abolish it. I hold that
New York had as much right to abolish slavery as Virginia has to
continue it, and that each and every State of this Union is a sover-
eign power, with the right to do as it pleases upon this question of
slavery, and upon all its domestic institutions. Slavery is not the
only question which comes up in this controversy. There is a far
more important one to you, and that is, what shall be done with the
free negro ? We have settled the slavery question as far as we are
concerned ; we have prohibited it in Illinois forever, and in doing
so, I think we have done wisely, and there is no man in the State
who would be more strenuous in his opposition to the introduction
of slavery than I would ; but when we settled it for ourselves, we
exhausted all our power over that subject. We have done our whole
duty, and can do no more. We must leave each and every other
State to decide for itself the same question. In relation to the policy
to be pursued toward the free negroes, we have said that they shall
not vote: whilst Maine, on the other hand, has said that they shall
vote, ilaine is a sovereign State, and has the power to regulate
the qualifications of voters within her limits. I would never consent
to confer the right of voting and of citizenship upon a negro, but
still I am not going to quarrel with Maine for differing from me in
opinion. Let Maine take care of her own negroes, and fix the quali-
fications of her own voters to suit herself, without interfering with
Illinois, and Illinois will not interfere with Maine. So with the
State of New York. She allows the negro to vote provided he owns
two hundred and fifty dollars' worth of property, but not otherwise.
WTiile I would not make any distinction whatever between a negro
who held property and one who did not, yet if the sovereign State
of New York chooses to make that distinction it is her business and
not mine, and I will not quarrel with her for it. She can do as she
pleases on this question if she minds her own business, and we will
do the same thing. / Now, my friends, if we will only act conscien-
tiously and rigidly tq)on this great principle of popular sovereignty,


whieli guarantees to each State and Territory tlie right to do as it
pleases on all things, local and domestic, instead of Congress inter-
fering, we will continue at peace one with another.) Why should
Illinois be at war with Missouri, or Kentucky with Ohio, or Virginia
with New York, merely because their institutions differ? Our
fathers intended that our institutions should differ. They knew
that the North and the South, having different climates, productions,
and interests, required different institutions. This doctrine of Mr.
Lincoln, of uniformity among the institutions of the different States,
is a new doctrine, never dreamed of by Washington, Madison, or
the framers of this government. Mr. Lincoln and the Republican
party set themselves up as wiser than these men who made this gov-
ernment, which has flourished for seventy years under the principle
of popular sovereignty, recognizing the right of each State to do as
it pleased. Under that principle, we have grown from a nation of
three or four milhons to a nation of about thirty millions of people ;
we have crossed the Allegheny mountains and filled up the whole
Northwest, turning the prairie into a garden, and building up churches
and schools, thus spreading civilization and Christianity where be-
fore there was nothing but savage barbarism. Under that principle
we have become, from a feeble nation, the most powerful on the face of
the earth, and if we only adhere to that principle, we can go forward
increasing in territory, in power, in strength, and in glory until the
Repiiblic of America shall be the north star that shall guide the
friends of freedom throughout the civilized world. And why can
we not adhere to the great principle of self-government upon which
our institutions were originally based? f I believe that this new doc-
trine preached by Mr. Lincoln and his party will dissolve the Union
if it succeeds. They are trying to array all the Northern States in
one body against the South, to excite a sectional war between the free
States and the slave States, in order that the one or the other may
be driven to the wall}

1 am told that my time is out. Mr. Lincoln will now address you
for an hour and a half, and I wiU then occupy a half hour in reply-
ing to him.

Mr. Lincoln's Reply in the Ottawa Joint Debate.

My Fellow-citizens: When a man hears himself somewhat mis-
represented, it provokes him — at least, I find it so with myself;
but when misrepresentation becomes very gross and palpable, it is
more apt to amuse him. The first thing I see fit to notice is the
fact that Judge Douglas alleges, after running through the history
of the old Democratic and the old Whig parties, that Judge Trum-
bull and myself made an arrangement in 1854 by which I was to
have the place of General Shields in the -United States Senate, and
Judge Trumbull was to have the place of Judge Douglas. Now all
I have to say upon that subject is that I think no man — not even
Judge Douglas — can prove it, because it is not true. I have no
doubt he is " conscientious " in saying it. As to those resolutions
that he took such a length of time to read, as being the platform of


the Republican party in 1854, 1 say I never had anything- to do with
them, and I think Trumbull never had. Judge" Douglas cannot
show that either of lis ever did have an3'thiug to do with them. I
believe this is true about those resolutions. There was a call for a
convention to form a Republican pai'ty at Springfield, and I think
that my friend Mr. Lovejoy, who is here upon this stand, had a
hand in it. I think this is true, and I think if he will remember
accurately he will be able to recollect that he ti-ied to get me into it,
and I would not go in. I believe it is also true that I went away
from Springfield, when the convention was in session, to attend court
in Tazewell County. It is true they did place my name, though
without authority, upon the committee, and afterward wrote me to
attend the meeting of the committee, but I refused to do so, and I
never had anything to do with that organization. This is the plain
truth about all that matter of the resolutions.

Now, about this story that Judge Douglas tells of Trumbull bar-
gaining to sell out the old Democratic party, and Lincoln agreeing
to sell out the Old Whig party, I have the means of knowing about
that ; Judge Douglas cannot have ; and I know there is no substance
to it whatever. Yet I have no doubt he is " conscientious " about
it. I know that after Mr. Lovejoy got into the legislature that
winter, he complained of me that I had told aU the Old Whigs of his
district that the Old Whig party was good enough for them, and
some of them voted against him because I told them so. Now, I
have no means of totally disproving such charges as this which the
judge makes. A man cannot prove a negative, but he has a right to
claim that when a man makes an af&rmative charge, he must offer
some proof to show the truth of what he says. I certainly cannot
introduce testimony to show the negative about things, but I have a
right to claim that if a man says he knows a thing, then he must show
how he knows it. I always have a right to claim this, and it is not
satisfactory to me that he may be " conscientious " on the subject.

Now, gentlemen, I hate to waste my time on such things, but in
regard to that general Abolition tilt that Judge Douglas makes,
when he says that I was engaged at that time in selling out and
Abolitionizing the Old Whig party, I hope you will permit me to
read a part of a printed speech that I made then at Peoria, which
wiU show altogether a different view of the position I took in that
contest of 1854. [Voice: "Put on your specs."] Yes, sir, I am
obliged to do so. I am no longer a young man.

This is the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. The foregoing history
may not be precisely accurate in every particular; but I am sure it is
sufficiently so for all the uses I shall attempt to make of it, and. in it we
have before us the chief materials enabling us to correctly judge whether
the repeal of the Missouri Compromise is right or wrong.

I think, and shall try to show, that it is wrong ; wrong in its direct effect,
letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska — and wrong in its prospective
principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world where
men can be found inclined to take it.

This declared indifEerence, but, as I must think, covert real zeal for the
spread of slavery, I cannot But hate. I hate it because of the monstrous


injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican
example of its just influence in the world ; enables the enemies of free in-
stitutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites; causes the real
friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces
so many reaUy good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the
very fundamental principles of civil liberty — criticizing the Declaration
of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action
but self-interest.

Before proceeding, let me say I think I have no prejudice against the
Southern people. They are just what we would be in their situation. If
slavery did not now exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it
did now eidst among us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe
of the masses North and South. Doubtless there are individuals on both
sides who would not hold slaves under any circumstances ; and others who
would gladly introduce slavery anew, if it were out of existence. We know
that some Southern men do free their slaves, go North, and become tip-top
Abohtionists ; while some Northern ones go South, and become most cruel

When Southern people teU us they are no more responsible for the origin
of slavery than we, I acknowledge the fact. When it is said that the insti-
tution exists, and that it is very difficult to get rid of it in any satisfactory
way, I can understand and appreciate the saying. I surely will not blame
them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself. If all
earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the
existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and
send them to Liberia — to their own native land. But a moment's reflection
would convince me that whatever of high hope (as I think there is) there
may be in this in. the long run, its sudden execution is impossible. If they
were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days ;
and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough in the world
to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all,
and keep them among us as underlings ? Is it quite certain that this betters
their condition 1 I think I would not hold one in slavery at any rate ; yet
the point is not clear enough to me to denounce people upon. What next ?
Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals ? My own
f eehngs will not admit of this ; and i£ mine would, we well know that those
of the gre&t mass of white people wiU not. Whether this feeling accords
with justice and sound judgment is not the sole question, if, indeed, it is any
part of it. A universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely
disregarded. We cannot make them equals. It does seem to me that
systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted ; but for their tardiness
in this, I wiU not undertake to judge our brethren of the South.

When they remind us of their constitutional rights, I acknowledge them,
not grudgingly, but fully and fairly ; and I would give them any legislation
for the reclaiming of their fugitives, which should not, in its stnngencyj be
more likely to carry a free man into slavery, than oiu" ordinary criminal
laws are to hang an innocent one.

tBut aU this, to my judgment, furnishes no more excuse for permitting
slavery to go into om- own free territory, than it would for reviving the
African slave-trade by law. The law which forbids the briaging of slaves
from Africa, and that which has so long forbidden the taking of them to Ne-
braska, can hardly be distinguished on any moral principle ; and the repeal
of the former could find quite as plausible excuses as that of the latter .7

I liave reason to know that Judge Douglas knows that I said this.
I think he has the answer here to one of the questions he put to me.
I do not mean to allow him to catechize me unless he pays back for


it in kind. I will not answer questions one after another, unless he
reciprocates ; but as he has made this inquiry, and I have answered
it before, he has got it without my getting anything in return. He
has got my answer on the fugitive-slave law.

Now, gentlemen, I don't want to read at any great length, but this
is the true complexion of all I have ever said in regard to the insti-
tution of slavery and the black race. This is the whole of it, and
anything that argues me into his idea of perfect social and political
equality with the negro is but a specious and fantastic arrangement
of words, by which a man can prove a horse-chestnut to be a chest-
nut horse. I will say here, while upon this subject, that I have no
purpose, either directly or indirectly, to interfere 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 pur-
pose to introduce political and social 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 liv-
ing together upon the footing of perfect equality; and inasmuch
as it becomes a necessity that there must be a difference, I, as well
as Judge Douglas, am in f^vor of the race to which I belong having
the superior position. 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 enumer-
ated 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 not
my equal in many respects — certainly not in color, perhaps 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.

Now I pass on to consider one or two more of these little follies.
The judge is woefully at fault about his early friend Lincoln being
a " grocery-keeper." I don't know that it would be a great sin if
I had been; but he is mistaken. Lincoln never kept a grocery
anywhere in the world. It is true that Lincoln did work the latter
part of one winter in a little still-house up at the head of a
hollow. And so I think my friend, the judge, is equally at fa,ult
when he charges me at the time when I was in Congress of having
opposed our soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican War. The
judge did not make his charge very distinctly, but I tell you what
he can prove, by referring to the record. You remember I was an
Old Whig, and whenever the Democratic party tried to get me to vote
that the war had been righteously begun by the President, I would
not do it. But whenever they asked for any money, or land-war-
rants, or anything to pay the soldiers there, during all that time, I
gave the same vote that Judge Douglas did. You can think as you
please as to whether that was consistent. Such is the truth ; and
the judge has the right to make all he can out of it. But when he,
by a general charge, conveys the idea that I withheld supplies from
the soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican War, or did anything
Vol. I.— 19.


else to hinder the soldiers, he is, to say the least, grossly and alto-
gether mistaken, as a consultation of the records will prove to him.

As I have not used up so much of my time as I had supposed, I
wiU dwell a little longer upon one or two of these minor topics upon
which the judge has spoken. He has read from my speech in
Springfield in which I say that " a house divided against itself can-
not stand." Does the .judge say it can stand ? I don't know whether
he does or not. The judge does not seem to be attending to me just
now, but I would like to know if it is his opinion that a house
divided against itself can stand. If he does, then there is a question
of veracity, not between him and me, but between the judge and
an authority of a somewhat higher character.

Now, my friends, I ask your attention to this matter for the pur-
pose of saying something seriously. I know that the judge may
readily enough agree with me that the maxim which was put forth
by the Saviour is true, but he may allege that I misapply it ; and the
judge has a right to urge that in my application I do misapply it,
and then I have a right to show that I do not misapply it. When
he undertakes to say that because I think this nation, so far as the
question of slavery is concerned^ wiU all become one thing or aU
the other, I am in favor of bringing about a dead uHiformity in the
various States in all their institutions, he argues erroneously. The
great variety of the local institutions in the States, springing from
differences in the soil, differences in the face of the country, and in
the climate, are bonds of union. They do not make " a house di-
vided against itself," but they make a house united. If they pro-
duce in one section of the country what is called for by the wants
of another section, and this other section can supply the wants of
the first, they are not matters of discord but bonds of union, true
bonds of union. But can this question of slavery be considered as
among these varieties in the institutions of the country? I leave it
to you to say whether, in the history of our government, this insti-
tution of slavery has not always failed to be a bond of union, and,
on the contrary, been an apple of discord and an element of divi-
sion in the house. I ask you to consider whether, so long as the
moral constitution of men's minds shall continue to be the same,
after this generation and assemblage shall sink into the grave, and
another race shall arise with the same moral and intellectual devel-
opment we have — whether, if that institution is standing in the
same irritating position in which it now is, it will not continue an
element of division 1

If so, then I have a right to say that, in regard to this question, the
Union is a house divided against itself ; and when the judge reminds
me that I have often said to him that the institution of slavery has
existed for eighty years in som;g_States, and yet it does not exist in
some others, I agree to the f actj[and I account for it by looking at the
position in which our fathers originally placed it — restricting it from
the new Territories where it had not gone, and legislating to cut off
its source by the abrogation of the slave-trade, thus putting the seal
of legislation against its spreaoj The public mind did rest in the
belief that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. But lately, I


think — and in this I charge nothing on the judge's motives — lately,
I think, that he, and those acting with him, have placed that institu-
tion on a new basis, which looks to the perpetuity and nationalization
of slavery. And while it is placed upon this new basis, I say, and I
have said, that I believe we shall not have peace upon the question
until the opponents of slavery arrest the further spread of it, and
place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the
course of ultimate extinction j or, on the other hand, that its advo-
cates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the
States, old as well as new, North as well as South. Now I believe if
we could arrest the spread, and place it where Washington and

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 37 of 91)