Abraham Lincoln.

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

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Jefferson and Madison placed it, it would be in the course of ultimate
extinction, and the public mind would, as for eighty years past, be-
lieve that it was in the course of ultimate extinction. The crisis
would be past, and the institution might be let alone for a hundred-
years — if it should live so long — in the States where itexists,yet it
would be going out of .existence in the way best for both the black
and the white r^es. [A voice: "Then do you repudiate popular
sovereignty ? "] l[^ell, then, let us talk about popular sovereignty !
What is popular sovereignty ? Is it the right of the people to have
slavery or not have it, as they see fit, in the Territories? I will
state — and I have an able man to watch me — my understanding is
that popular sovereignty, as now applied to the question of slavery,
does allow the people of a Territory to have slavery if they want to,
but does not allow them not to have it if they do not want it. I do
not mean that if this vast concourse of people were in a Territory of
the United States, any one of them would be obliged to have a slave
if he did not want one ; but I do say that, as I understand the Dred
Scott decision, if any one man wants slaves, all the rest have no way
of keeping that one man from holding themrj

When I made my speech at Springfield, (^ which the judge com-
plains, and from which he quotes, I really was not thinking of the
things which he ascribes to me at all. I had no thought in the world
that I was doing anything to bring about a war between the free
and slave States. I had no thought in the world that I was doing
anything to bring about a political and social equality of the black
and white races. It never occurred to me that I was doing anything
or favoring anything to reduce to a dead uniformity all the local
institutions of the various States. But I must say, in all fairness
to him, if he thinks I am doing something which leads to these bad
results, it is none the better that I did not mean it. It is just as
fatal to the country, if I have any influence in producing it, whether
I intend it or not. But can it be true, that placing this institution
upon the original basis — the basis upon which our fathers placed
it — can have any tendency to set the Northern and the Southern
States at war with one another, or that it can have any tendency to
make the people of Vermont raise sugar-cane because they raise it
in Louisiana, or that it can compel the people of Illinois to cut pine
logs on the Grand Prairie, where they wiU not grow, because they
cut pine logs in Maine, where they do grow? The judge says this
is a new principle started in regard to this question. Does the judge


claim that he is working on the plan of the founders of the gov-
ernment ? I think he says in some of his speeches — indeed, I have
one here now — that he saw evidence of a policy to allow slavery to
be south of a certain line, while north of it it should be excluded, and
he saw an indisposition on the part of the country to stand upon that
pohey, and therefore he set about studying the subject upon original
principles, and upon original principles he got up the Nebraska
bill ! I am fighting it upon these " original principles " —fighting it
in the Jeffersonian, Washingtonian, and Madisonian fashion.

Now, my friends, I wish you to attend for a little while to one or
two other things in that Springfield speech. My main object was
to show, so far as my humble ability was capable of showing to the
people of this country, what I believed was the truth— jtb at there
was a tendency, if not a conspiracy, among those who nave engi-
neered this slavery question for the last four or five years, to make
slavery perpetual and universal in this nationryHaving made that
speech principally for that object, after arranging the evidences
that I thought tended to prove my proposition, I concluded with
this bit of comment :

jWe cannot absolutely know that these exact adaptations are the result
or^re-concert, but when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions
of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places, and
by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Eoger, and James, for instance ;
and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly
make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fit-
ting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly
adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few, —
not omitting even the scaffolding, — or i£ a single piece be lacking, we see
the place ia the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece
in — in such a case we feel it impossible not to beheve that Stephen and
Franklin, and Roger and James, aU understood one another from the be-
ginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn before the
first blow was struck. "7

When my friend, Judge Douglas^ came to Chicago on the 9th of
July, this speech having been delivered on the 16th of June, he
made an harangue there in which he took hold of this speech of
mine, showing that he had carefully read it ; and while he paid no
attention to this matter at aU, but complimented me as being a
" kind, amiable, and intelligent gentleman," notwithstanding I had
said this, he goes on and deduces, or draws out, from my speech
this tendency of mine to set the States at war with one another, to
make all the institutions uniform, and set the niggers and white
people to marry together. Then, as the judge had complimented
me with these pleasant titles (I must confess to my weakness), I
was a little " taken," for it came from a great man. I was not very
much accustomed to flattery, and it came the sweeter to me. I was
rather like the Hoosier with the gingerbread, when he said he reck-
oned he loved it better than any other man, and got less of it. As
the judge had so flattered me, I could not make up my mind that
he meant to deal unfairly with me ; so I went to work to show him
that he misunderstood the whole scope of my speech, and that I


really never intended to set the people at war with one another. As
an illustration, the next time I met him, which was at Springfield, I
used this expression, that I claimed no right under the Constitution,
nor had I any inclination, to enter into the slave States and inter-
fere with the institutions of slavery. He says upon that: Lin-
coln will not enter into the slave States, but will go to the banks of
the Ohio, on this side, and shoot over ! He runs on, step by step, in
the horse-chestnut style of argument, until in the Springfield speech
he says, " Unless he shall be successful in firing his batteries, until
he shall have extinguished slavery in all the States, the Union shall
be dissolved." Now I don't think that was exactly the way to treat
" a kind, amiable, intelligent gentleman." I know if I had asked
the judge to show when or where it was I had said, that if I did n't
succeed in firing into the slave States until slavery should be extin-
guished, the Union should be dissolved, he could not have shown it.
I understand what he would do. He would say, "I don't mean to
quote from you, but this was the result of what you say." But I
have the right to ask, and I do ask now, did you not put it in such
a form that an ordinary reader or listener would take it as an ex-
pression from me ?

In a speech at Springfield on the night of the 17th, I thought I
might as well attend to my business a little, and I recalled his atten-
tion as well as I could to this charge of conspiracy to nationalize
slavery. I called his attention to the fact that he had acknowledged in
my hearing twice that he had carefully read the speech ; and, in the
language of the lawyers, as he had twice read the speech, and still had
put in no plea or answer, I took a default on him. I insisted that I
had a right then to renew that charge of conspiracy. Ten days after-
ward I met the judge at Clinton — that is to say, I was on the ground,
but not in the discussion — and heard him make a speech. Then he
comes in with his plea to this charge, for the first time, and his plea
when put in, as well as I can recollect it, amounted to this: that he
never had any talk with Judge Taney or the President of the United
States with regard to the Dred Scott decision before it was made.
I (Lincoln) ought to know that the man who makes a charge without
knowing it to be true, falsifies as much as he who knowingly tells a
falsehood; and lastly, that he would pronounce the whole thing a
falsehood ; but he would make no personal application of the charge
of falsehood, not because of any regard for the '' kind, amiable, intel-
ligent gentleman," but because of his own personal self-respect ! I
have understood since then (but [turning to Judge Douglas] will not
hold the judge to it if he is not willing) that he has broken through
the " self-respectj" and has got to saying the thing out. The judge
nods to me that it is so. It is fortunate for me that I can keep as
good-humored as I do, when the judge acknowledges that he has
been trying to make a question of veracity with me. I know the
judge is a great man, while I am only a small man, but I feel that I
have got him. I demur to that plea. I waive all objections that it
was not filed till after default was taken, and demur to it upon the
merits. What if Judge Douglas never did talk with Chief Justice
Taney and the President before the Dred Scott decision was made ;


does it follow that he could not have had as j)erf act an understand-
ing without talking as with it? I am not disposed to stand upon
my legal advantage. I am disposed to take his denial as being like
an answer in chancery, that he neither had any knowledge, informa-
tion, nor belief in the existence of such a conspiracy. I am disposed
to take his answer as being as broad as though he had put it in
these words. And now, I ask, even if he had done so, have not I
a right to prove it on him, and to offer the evidence of more than
two witnesses, by whom to prove it; and if the evidence proves
the existence of the conspiracy, does his broad answer, denying
all knowledge, information, or belief, disturb the fact? It can
only show that he was used by conspirators, and was not a leader
of them.

Now, in regard to his reminding me of the moral rule that per-
sons who tell what they do not know to be true, falsify as much as
those who knowingly tell falsehoods. I remember the rule, and it
must be borne in mind that in what I have read to you, I do not say
that I know such a conspiracy to exist. To that I reply, I believe it.
If the judge says that I do not believe it, then he says what he does
not know, and falls within his own rule that he who asserts a thing
which he does not know to be true, falsifies as much as he who
knowingly tells a falsehood. I want to call your attention to a little
discussion on that branch of the ease, and the evidence which brought
my mind to the conclusion which I expressed as my belief. If, in
arraying that evidence, I had stated anything which was false or er-
roneous, it needed but that Judge Douglas should point it out, and
I would have taken it back with all the kindness in the world. I do
not deal in that way. If I have brought forward anything not a fact,
if he will point it out, it will not even ruffle me to take it back. But
if he will not point out anything erroneous in the evidence, is it not
rather for him to show by a comparison of the evidence that I have
reasoned falsely, than to call the " kind, amiable, intelligent gentle-
man " a liar ? If I have reasoned to a false conclusion, it is the vo-
cation of an able debater to show by argument that I have wan-
dered to an erroneous conclusion. I want to ask your attention to
a portion of the Nebraska bill which Judge Douglas has quoted :
" It being the true intent and meaning of this act, not to legislate
slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to
leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their do-
mestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution
of the United States." Thereupon Judge Douglas and others began
to argue in favor of "popular sovereignty" — the right of the people
to have slaves if they wanted them, and to exclude slavery if they
did not want them. " But," said, in substance, a senator from Ohio
(Mr. Chase, I believe), '|we more than suspect that you do not mean
to allow the people to exclude slavery if they wish to ; and if you do
mean it, accept an amendment which I propose expressly authorizing
the people to exclude slavery7|7 I believe I have the amendment
here before me, which was offered, and under which the people of
the Territory, through their proper representatives, might, if they
saw fit, prohibit the existence of slavery therein. And now I state


it as a fact, to be takeu back if there is any mistake about it, that
Judge Douglas aud those acting with him voted that amendment
down. I now think that those men who voted it down had a real
reason for doing so. L^hey know what that reason was. It looks to
us, since we have seen the Dred Seott decision pronounced, holding
that, '' under the Constitution," the people cannot exclude slaveryj^
I say it looks to outsiders, poor, simple, " amiable, intelligent gen-
tlemen," as though the niche was left as a place to put that Dred
Scott decision in, a niche which would have been spoiled by adopting
the amendment. And now I say again, if this was not the reason,
it will avail the judge much more to calmly and good-humoredly
point out to these people what that other reason was for voting the
amendment down, than swelling himself up to vociferate that he
may be provoked to call somebody a liar.

Again : there is in that same quotation from the Nebraska bill
this clause : '' It being the true intent and meaning of this bill not
to legislate slavery into any Territory or State." I ha\'e always
been puzzled to know what business the word '■ State" had in that
connection. Judge Douglas knows. He put it there. He knows
what he put it there for. We outsiders cannot say what he put it
there for. The law they were passing was not about States, and
was not making provision for States. What was it placed there
for? After seeing the Dred Seott decision whieli holds that the
people cannot exclude slavery from a Teri'itory, if another Dred
Scott decision shall come, holding that they cannot exclude it from
a State, we shall discover that when the word was originally put
there, it was in view of something which was to come in due time,
we shall see that it was the other half of something. I now say
again, if there is any different reason for piitting it there, Judge
Douglas, in a good-humored way, without calling anybody a bar,
can teU what the reason was.

When the judge spoke at Clinton, he came very near making a
charge of falsehood against me. He used, as I found it printed in
a newspaper, which, I remember was very nearly like the real speech,
the following language :

I did not answer the charge [of conspiracy] before for the reason that I
did not suppose there was a man in America with a heart so corrupt as to
beUeve such a charge could be true. I have too much respect for Mr.
Lincoln to suppose he is serious in making the charge.

I confess this is rather a curious view, that out of respect for me
he should consider I was making what I deemed rather a grave charge
in fun. I confess it strikes me rather strangely. But I let it pass.
As the judge did not for a moment believe that there was a man in
America whose heart was so " corrupt " as to make such a charge,
and as he places me among the " men in America " who have hearts
base enough to make such a charge, I hope he will excuse me if I
hunt out another charge very like this ; and if it should turn out
that in hunting I should find that other, and it should turn out
to be Judge Douglas himself who made it, I hope he will reconsider
this question of the deep corruption of heart he has thought fit to


ascribe to me. In Judge Douglas's speech of March 22, 1858, which
I hold in my hand, he says :

In this connection there is another topic to wMch I desire to allude. I
seldom refer to the course of newspapers, or notice the articles wMch they
pubhsh in regard to myself ; but the course of the Washington " Union "
has been so extraordinary, for the last two or three months, that I think it
weU enough to make some aUusion to it. It has read me out of the Dem-
ocratic party every other day, at least for two or three months, and keeps
reading me out, and, as if it had not succeeded, still continues to read me
out, using such terms as " traitor," " renegade," " deserter," and other kind
and poUte epithets of that nature. Sir, I have no vindication to make of
my Democracy against the Washington " Union," or any other newspaper,
I am wiEing to aUow my history and actions for the last twenty years to
speak for themselves as to my poUtieal principles, and my fldehty to pohtical
obligations. The Washington " Union " has a personal grievance. When
the editor was nominated for pubhe printer I declined to vote for him, and
stated that at some time I might give my reasons for doing so. Since I
declined to give that vote, this scurrilous abuse, these vindictive and con-
stant attacks, have been repeated almost daily on me. Will my friend from
Michigan read the article to which I allude ?

This is a part of the speech. You must excuse me from reading
the entire article of the Washington " Union," as Mr. Stuart read it
for Mr. Douglas. The judge goes on and sums up, as I think,
correctly :

Mr. President, you here find several distinct propositions advanced boldly
by the Washington " Union "editorially, and apparently authoritatively, and
any man who questions any of them is denounced as an Abohtionist, a Free-
soiler, a fanatic. The propositions are, first, that the primary object of all
government at its original institution is the protection of person and prop-
erty ; second, that the Constitution of the United States declares that the
citizens of each State shall be entitled to aU the privileges and immunities
of citizens in the several States ; and that^ therefore, thirdly, aU State laws,
whether organic or otherwise, which prohibit the citizens xif one State from
setthng in another with their slave property, and especially declaring it
forfeited, are direct violations of the original intention of the government
and Constitution of the United States ; and, fourth, that the emancipation of
the slaves of the Northern States was a gross outrage on the rights of prop-
erty, inasmuch as it was involuntarily done on the part of the owner.

Remember that this article was pubhshed in the " Union " on the 17th of
November, and on the 18th appeared the first article giving the adhesion
of the " Union" to the Lecompton constitution. It was in these words :

" Kansas and hee Constitution. The vexed question is settled. The
problem is solved. The dead point of danger is passed. All serious trouble
to Kansas affairs is over and gone."

And a column nearly of the same sort. Then, when you come to look into
the Lecompton constitution, you find the same doctrine incorporated in it
which was put forth editorially in the " Union." What is it?

"Article 7, Section 1. The right of property is before and higher than
any constitutional sanction; and the right of the owner of a slave to such
slave and its increase is the same and as inviolable as the right of the owner
of any property whatever."

Then in the schedule is a provision that the constitution may be amended
after 1864 by a two-thu-ds vote.


" But no alteration shall be made to affect the right of property in the
ownership of slaves."

It will be seen by these clauses in the Lecompton constitution that they are
identical in spirit with the autlioritatire article in the Washington "Union"
of the day previous to its indorsement of this constitution.

I pass oyer some portions of the speeeh, and I hope that any one
who feels interested in this matter will read the entire section of the
speech, and see whether I do the judge injustice. He proceeds:

When I saw that article in the " Union" of the 17th of November, followed
by the glorification of the Lecompton constitution on the 18th of November,
and this clause in the constitution asserting the doctrine that a State has no
rig^ht to prohibit slavery within its limits, I saw that there was a fatal blow
being struck at the sovereignty of the States of this Union.

I stop the quotation there, again requesting that it may all be read.
I have read all of the portion I desire to comment upon. What is
this charge that the judge thinks I must have a very corrupt heart to
make f It was a purpose on the part of certain high functionaries to
make it impossible for the people of one State to prohibit the people
of any other State from entering it with their " property," so called,
and makiag it a slave State. In other words, it was a charge im-
plying a design to make the institution of slavery national. And
now I ask your attention to what Judge Douglas has himself done
here. I know he made that part of the speech as a reason why he
had refused to vote for a certain man for public printer, but when
we get at it, the charge itself is the very one I made against him,
that he things I am so corrupt for nttering. Now, whom does he
make that charge against "? Does he make it against that newspaper
editor merely? No; he says it is identical in spirit with the Le-
compton constitution, and so the framers of that constitution are
brought in with the editor of the newspaper in that " fatal blow be-
ing struck." He did not call it a " conspiracy." In his language it
is a " fatal blow being struck." And if the words carry the meaning
better when changed from a "conspiracy" into a "fatal blow being
struck," I will change my expression and call it "fatal blow being
struck." We see the charge made not merely against the editor of
the " Union," but all the framers of the Lecompton constitution ; and
not only so, but the article was an authoritative article. By whose
authority ? Is there any question but that he means it was by the
authority of the President and his cabinet — the administration?
Is there any sort of question but that he means to make that
charge ? Then there are the editors of the " Union," the framers of the
Lecompton constitution, the President of the United States and his
cabinet, and all the supporters of the Lecompton constitution, in Con-
gress and out of Congress, who are all involved in this " fatal blow
being struck." I commend to Judge Douglas's consideration the ques-
tion of how corrupt a man's heart must be to make such a charge !

Now, my friends, I have but one branch of the subject, in the lit-
tle time I have left, to which to call your attention, and as I shall
come to a close at the end of that branch, it is probable that I shall not


occupy quite all the time allotted to me. Although on these questions
I would like to talk twice as long as I have, I could not enter upon
another head and discuss it properly without running over my
time. I ask the attention of the people here assembled and else-
where, to the course that Judge Douglas is pursuing every day as
bearing upon this question of making slavery national. Not going
back to the records, but taking the speeches he makes, the speeches
he made yesterday and day before, and makes constantly all over
the country — I ask your attention to them. In the first place, what
is necessary to make the institution national? Not war. There is
no danger that the people of Kentucky will shoulder their muskets,
and, with a young nigger stuck on every bayonet, march into Illinois
and force them upon us. There is no. danger of our going over
there and making war upon them. Then what is necessary for the
nationalization of slavery? It is simply the next Dred Scott decision.
It is merely for the Supreme Court to decide that no State under
the Constitution can exclude it, just as they have already decided
that under the Constitution neither Congress nor the territorial
legislature can do it. When that is decided and acquiesced in, the

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 38 of 91)